teisipäev, november 28, 2006

Bush in Tallinn

I have been alive for 27 years and, of the five presidents I have known first-hand, George W. Bush has not been my favorite. Historically, also, I have to say he would rank near the bottom of my list, somewhere between James Buchanan, who wrung his hands while the Civil War erupted, and James K. Polk, who presided over the "Manifest Destiny" mania that added the northern part of Mexico to the US.

But the presidents I do like have been loathed by many for public and personal reasons. Thomas Jefferson, who imagined a nation of intellectual farmers engrossed in direct democracy at the state level, was staunchly opposed by Alexander Hamilton. Woodrow Wilson, who was the first to imagine "peace without victors" was denied his League of Nations by Henry Cabot Lodge. And Bill Clinton, who I felt did a fair job of representing America, warts and all, was embroiled in controversies related to his personal life.

So it must be said that, while Bush is unpopular at home and abroad, he is still the president of the United States. It would have been swell if Warren G Harding or Calvin Coolidge had managed a trip to independent Eesti in the 1920s. But neither of them - both of whom were also greatly criticized - never made it. It's a pity too, because the visit of an American president is a great opportunity for a country to introduce itself to America, much like the visit of a British monarch was a great opportunity for Estonia to be seen and heard in the UK. That kind of exposure could have worked wonders in the past.

Tomorrow, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Bush will hold a press conference. Bush will most likely make statements that are cryptic and short [during his recent visit to Vietnam he said: "We’ll succeed unless we quit"] but Ilves, who is among the better orators in Europe, will also hold the podium. He will be seen - and heard - on the news worldwide. I don't know what he will say, but I do know that it will be unprecedented exposure for an Estonian president.

So the bottom line must be seen as this. Whatever your thoughts on Mr. Bush, any supporter of Estonia can only see this visit as a success for a country that gave Condaleeza Rice anxiety just 16 years ago. In the first Bush White House, such a visit would be seen as a pipe dream. Today, it's no big deal. And even the Finns are jealous. And please, somebody give W. some Vanilla Ninja kohuke!

21 kommentaari:

Kaur ütles ...

and a millimallikas, too!

realist ütles ...

oh c'mon! ilves is only a wannabe show-off (style without substance) ...don't expect too much of him

Giustino ütles ...

oh c'mon! ilves is only a wannabe show-off (style without substance) ...don't expect too much of him

I expect more than what I've been getting from Bush for the last six years. The bar, my friend, is very low.

So enjoy the fact that your president is semi-articulate. Even if it is just for show.

Sky ütles ...

Of all the Presidents that might have the honor of being the first to visit Estonia, it has to be this one. *sigh
Well.. as they say, "there's no such thing as bad publicity", so this is very good for Estonia in the meanwhile.

OV ütles ...

USA badest president in the history was Woodrow Wilson, who give all power to the banksters. So follow first and second world war... When americans understand that all bad things come from private central bank? JFK killed for this that started issue goverment money!

stockholm slender ütles ...

I have nothing but admiration for the skill and adroitness of the post-independence Baltic foreign policy. It has been very singleminded and very successful. It would be a long list of wise "experts" that maintained that every single step forward would be impossible. Of course this also means that the bets are placed for now - the Euro-Atlantic alliance and EU better prosper and stay strong. International conditions can change unpredictably (in this region the nightmares of 1930's are still well remembered). In any case, Estonia and the other Baltic countries have handled their foreign policy most effectively indeed.

Anonüümne ütles ...

There's nothing wrong with Bush. What stops him being successful, is democracy, because he has to make too many compromises. The world needs people who do(Bush), rather than talk (EU).

radical sasquatch ütles ...

President Bush's visit has been good publicity for Estonia. I've heard Tallinn described as a "charming" city enclosed by medieval walls on National Public Radio, and Estonia repeatedly described as one of America's strongest allies in Europe. It's too bad Bush didn't stay longer--there might have been more in-depth coverage.

the other Mel ütles ...

And of course, CNN did such a banged-up job covering the Estonia part of things. They keep re-showing that footage of Dubya shaking hands with...Mart Laar. Maybe CNN is endorsing the ühispartei for the March Riigikogu elections?

Giustino ütles ...

There's nothing wrong with Bush. What stops him being successful, is democracy, because he has to make too many compromises. The world needs people who do(Bush), rather than talk (EU).

People got dissatisfied with democracy in the 30s too. And so we got Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and Konstantin Päts.

That kind of government SUCKS. It is incapable of making the proper adjustments to solve problems.

Giustino ütles ...

USA badest president in the history was Woodrow Wilson, who give all power to the banksters.

Oh yeah, some people HATE Wilson with a passion - just as people today hate Bush.

It's hard to find a president that nobody disliked. Bush has been one of the most unpopular.

During the first term there was a lot of animosity towards him because he wasn't really "elected" - that is, Gore got more votes, nationally, than Bush, yet because of our very interesting electoral system, Bush won on what amounts to a technicality.

In the second term, we have been dealing with Iraq. Selling the war was hard to begin with, then when the reasons that it was "sold for" (WMD, remember them?) didn't pan out - Bush's approval began to drop. The botched response to Katrina, which left America looking like Bangladesh, was the turning point.

Since September 2005, he has been mired in the low 30s in terms of his approval rating. I doubt it will go up.

Is everything his fault? No. But he is the president, and all fingers eventually point in his direction.

the other Mel ütles ...

Hey, you forgot to list William McKinley in the list of the worst presidents. He pushed "Manifest Destiny" beyond the continental zone and took part in the illegal annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai'i and other land-grabs of the Spanish-American War. Using Spanish "atrocities" as an excuse to invade and grab colonies is pretty cheap in my book. Much worse than ol' Konstantin Päts...

Bob ütles ...

Personally, I think if President Bush's visit generates enough publicity here in the states that just a few less people ask "Where is Estonia?" (almost universal) when I mention it, it will be a good thing.

The first time I mailed anything to Estonia, the postal clerk here looked at the envelope and said "WHAT is Estonia?" No wonder it took 16 days for that letter to reach Tallin airport. (Eesti Post delivered it one day later!)

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

I'm not sure this generated THAT much publicity for the country. On the news last night here in the UK, there was a 1 minute blurb about Bush urging other NATO countries to pull their weight, and footage of him sitting in a conference room with various other "Men in Suits". Nothing about Estonia except "Mr Bush, who is in Estonia before he attends the NATO conference in Latvia tomorrow..." Similarly, when the Queen went, again there was very little coverage, perhaps a minute or so on the news. So I'm sceptical about the publicity value of these visits.

Having said that, I think Estonia, or at least Tallinn, is one of the most successful examples of word of mouth advertising I have ever seen. With no tourist advertising whatsoever here, it is amazing how many people I have met who have either been there or have been recommended to go by somebody who has been there. I myself went for the first time 3 years ago on the recommendation of someone who had been there. Generally people go, have their preconceptions of a bleak post-soviet town wiped out, and come back and tell other people what a pretty place and what a good time they had, and other people go, and the chain goes on. Personally I don't think you can buy this kind of advertising.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm not sure this generated THAT much publicity for the country. On the news last night here in the UK, there was a 1 minute blurb about Bush urging other NATO countries to pull their weight, and footage of him sitting in a conference room with various other "Men in Suits".

Keith Olbermann focused on a part of Bush's speech in Estonia on his program, so you got to see Ilves and the Estonian flag and the coat of arms.

I think it helps just subconsciously for people to see that "Oh, they look normal." Most New Yorkers think Estonia is somewhere in upstate New York. :)

Giustino ütles ...

Generally people go, have their preconceptions of a bleak post-soviet town wiped out, and come back and tell other people what a pretty place and what a good time they had, and other people go, and the chain goes on.

There's always that invisible line you have to cross. Most people haven't been updated on the Baltics since 1991. Even the first time I went, I had no idea what I should expect.

Giustino ütles ...

All is not lost. This gem was written by AP and published by most newspapers in the US today:

Bush received two gifts from his Estonian hosts: a glass sculpture and a Skype wireless phone that can be used to make calls over the Internet.

The country is often nicknamed ``E-Stonia'' for its booming high-tech industry, and it is the main hub of Skype, the Internet telephone company that eBay bought last year for $2.6 billion.

If the phone and accompanying headset Bush received illustrated Estonia's technological savvy, the other one represented its yearning for light during the dark winter months.

Titled ``Northern Light,'' the sculpture symbolizes ``the Nordic freshness and crispness, the longing for light during lasting dark periods, strength of purpose and perseverance,'' the Estonian government said.


Just between you and me, I don't know anyone that ever called it "E-stonia." But most journalists seem to have ;)

plasma-jack ütles ...

I have, but in a rather different context than infotechnology ;-)

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

Perhaps Estonia would make a bigger impression on the world if Borat paid a visit ;-) You could argue that Kazakhstan is now among the most famous ex Soviet countries!

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2006-11-16-kazakhstan_x.htm

the other Mel ütles ...

Uh, sorry bud. Yes, Bush got a Skype phone, but if you read Postimees and saw the picture, he left it behind...what a wonderful guest. Usually you deep-six unwanted gifts AFTER you leave the country...

Anonüümne ütles ...

Well there should be people who take care of gifts, have you ever seen a president walking with flowers/huge wrapped packages. Bush got the present eventually though, his team just forgot it there in the first place.