Monday, May 14, 2007



Bush's wink becomes a royal pain

Saturday, May 12, 2007
Last updated 2:17 a.m. PT


Oh, he tried. He really did.

And yet President Bush managed to come off as a yokel during Queen Elizabeth's U.S. visit. He stumbled over dates in his speech, adding two centuries to the British monarch's age by indicating that she'd visited the U.S. in 1776 rather than 1976.
Bush and the queen
Zoom AP
President Bush makes a small faux pas while welcoming Queen Elizabeth II to the White House on May 7. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

And then he winked at her majesty as though she were a waitress at the IHOP (or Karl Rove). Then he referred to her as his mother.

I'm not a fan of formality. Having rules for when to use which fork and when it's appropriate to wink at someone is the sort of thing I believe the upper crust needs to occupy its time between visits to multiple vacation homes. The rest of us can't and shouldn't be bothered. Except for when the queen of England comes to visit. I mean ... damn. Didn't Bush's people make him watch "The Queen"? Besides not being known for her sense of humor -- those with a taste for tweed skirts seldom are -- the queen is beloved by most of England, a country that hangs on social rules and all things uptight. It invented butlers, crustless sandwiches and Simon Cowell, who is surely more of an invention than a real person.

Bush wasn't vicious, though, as was the case in 2003 when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got testy with Martin Schulz, a German member of the European parliament and snapped, "Mr. Schulz ... there is in Italy a producer producing a film on Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of commandant."

Also, Bush didn't try to give the queen an unsolicited rubdown, as he did with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during last year's G-8 Summit. Mission so not accomplished. Merkel, who after Kate Moss is the most powerful woman in Europe (actually, in September Forbes magazine rated Merkel the most powerful woman in the world), violently shrugged Bush's hands off her shoulders with an alarmed look on her face that said, "Eww! He's touching me!" The German press had a field day with the incident, calling the rebuffed massage "Bush's Love Attack on Merkel!"

After delivering his State of the Union speech, Bush also tried to hug House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Again, no go. Pelosi, who was clearly expecting a handshake, blocked Bush's hand somewhere near her left breast and gave him a jerky, two-handed grip 'n' shake. When it comes to being too familiar with the wrong lady, Bush is no Bill Clinton, although Bubba, as far as we know, stuck to civilians. Bush, on the other hand, is a tad too casual with some of the world's most powerful women, and at least one -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- returned the favor by accidentally referring to Bush as her "husband."

Let's not make it seem like Bush has awkward public moments only with females. In what must've been a "Rocky"-inspired moment, Bush once reportedly greeted British Prime Minister Tony Blair with a "Yo, Blair!" Then there was the time, perhaps after feeling flustered that a Falun Gong protester made it into the press area on the White House lawn and heckled China's President Hu Jintao for the country's treatment of the religious sect, Bush manhandled Hu, yanking him back by his jacket to direct him around the stage. The Chinese were mortified and offended.

The president dubbed "Cowboy George" by the San Francisco Chronicle and a "towel-snapping Texan" by The New York Times can get too familiar with the fellas, too. At any rate, Bush's slip-ups with the queen could have been worse. Photos of the monarch show only an irritated expression, nothing more. And in the pantheon of political gaffes, Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, is still the champ. He chundered into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa during a 1992 state dinner, prompting the Japanese to coin a new term for a humiliating episode of public vomiting, bushusuru (or, "pulling a Bush").

Should Bush meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I hope he won't offer him "the good scotch," and maybe won't crack any jokes about Cuban leader Fidel Castro being "like a father" to him. No "Yo!" greetings, no back rubs, no winks.

D. Parvaz is an editorial writer and member of the P-I Editorial Board. E-mail:


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