Baghdad Bush

Commander in chief serves turkey
— But will he eat crow and humble pie?

Yesterday, I drove a few miles to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends Ken, Phil, Jody, and Gary.

Bush serves turkey

Meanwhile, President Shrub set a record for Greatest Distance Traveled for the Shortest Visit on Thanksgiving Day. He flew all the way from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to Baghdad to say hello to the troops and help serve their Thanksgiving Day turkey.

Bush on USS Lincoln

This was a stunt, of course. A most bodacious stunt. But unlike the previous stunt in which The Shrub dressed up in a flight suit to hitch a ride in a fighter jet to the aircraft USS Lincoln to appear before that now infamous Mission Accomplished banner, this one has at least a modicum of redeeming social and political value. I'm sure it was very meaningful to the military, and I suppose there was even some value as a diplomatic and foreign-policy symbol. "A message" as it were. And for once, W put his own life somewhat at risk, rather than just the lives of others.

I will give President Shrub a pass on this one.

Inasmuch as this latest presidential exploit was all the rage in yesterday's news, and is still "above the fold" for many US news organizations, I thought it might be interesting to check in today.

The story is prominent on, of course. One could expect no less.

The trip is still the top article on the New York Times website, but for the main picture on the page, the Times features the shiny teeth of Erik Estrada and a story on holiday advertising.

The Washington Post also features the trip as its top article, although the Post frames the article as analysis and draws the close link between the president's political future and the future of Iraq. The main picture is devoted to the great American pasttime, shopping.

The Los Angeles Times, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, also leads with a story on the president's trip. It, too, directs our attention, visually, to the now traditional post-Thanksgiving Day shopping spree.

There's nothing remotely fair and balanced about Fox News' coverage — shopping is clearly of paramount importance to them. Actually, I'm somewhat surprised by this, given Fox's undisputed role as Cheerleaders in Chief.

Foreign press

Not surprisingly, the foreign press is handling the story somewhat differently.

Times of London

The Times of London is fairly reserved, but the home page focuses attention on the audaciousness of the White House in pulling off the trip in total secrecy. (The article itself is behind registration.)

Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror of London is anything but reserved and leaves no mistake about their attitude!

Bear in mind that the British are our closest (only?) ally in the Iraq adventure!

In France, readers of Le Monde got a very straightforward account of Bush's trip, although it was not even mentioned on Le Monde's home page. The headline focuses on the trip's secrecy — Dans le plus grand secret, George Bush rend une visite éclair aux soldats stationnés en Irak (In greatest secrecy, George Bush makes lightning visit to soldiers stationed in Iraq). Beyond that, however, it is simply a detailed news story. Fair and balanced, as it were.

In Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung carried the story on its home page, but it was a ways down on the page. Moreover, the lead article is about the attempts to reach an understanding with the Shiites over the plan to return sovereignty to the Iraqis: Die amerikanische Regierung ist offenbar zu weiteren politischen Zugeständnissen an die schiitische Bevölkerungsmehrheit im Irak bereit. (The American government is ready for further political concessions to the Shiite majority in Iraq.)

The article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about Bush's trip itself was characterized as background. It emphasized the contrast with the 1 May landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln: Diesmal war es eine streng geheime Kommandoaktion, mit der Bush den Amerikanern und der Welt beweisen wollte, daß die Vereinigten Staaten sich nicht von Terroranschlägen im Irak abschrecken ließen. (This time it was a strictly secret commando operation, with which Bush wanted Americans and the world to know that the United States would not be deterred by terrorist attacks in Iraq.)

The FAZ also has an extensive gallery of photographs of Bush's visit.

Given US news fascination with the cloak-and-dagger aspects of The Shrub's trip, a number of tantalizing details are emerging.

• Bush tells his wife and daughters about the trip, but not his parents. I see this as just another example of poor judgement. Personally, I would find the elder Bushes more trustworthy than the daughters.

• W and Condi pulled their baseball caps down to avoid detection by the guards at the airport. Some security, when the president of the United States can get by a security checkpoint and not be recognized.

• A military analyst said that landing at night reduced the threat of heat-seeking missiles. Excuse me! What does the dark have to do with it? I'm no rocket scientist, but I seriously doubt that Air Force One gives off less heat in the dark.

• A British Airways pilot saw Air Force One and contacted it by radio; when The Shrub's pilot replied that it was a Gulfstream V the BA pilot said, "Oh" and kept the secret. Seems to me that that means this whole escapade depended on the discretion of a pilot who did not get on the PA and announce to the passengers, "This is your pilot speaking. If you look out the windows on the left side of the aircraft you can see Air Force One pretending it's a stealth jet."