First of all, Albania? “He’s big in Albania” should be met with the same derisive snorts we gave press releases telling us Cristy Lane was #1 in Nigeria back in my music journalism days.
But what’s even more pathetic about this “Albania Mania” coverage is that no one bothers to point out why Albanians gave President Bush the hero’s welcome. In no small degree, it’s because of something--hold onto your chairs-- President Clinton did.
Yes, Albanians have loved us since President Woodrow Wilson’s day. But in modern times, you cannot ignore the fact that Albanians are grateful to America because we rescued ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo war--something which prominent Republicans actually criticized at the time and actively fought against. In fact, President Bush himself, then governor of Texas, said of the Kosovo action: “Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." Gee, ya think? How’s your exit strategy coming along, Mr. President?
The New York Times pointed out that there are thousands of Albanian children named Bill and Hillary as a result of Clinton’s intervention, and they expect a deluge of little Georges in the wake of Bush’s visit.
Still, if there’s a sadder commentary on the past seven years, I can’t think of it. President Bush has alienated America from the world, and has resolutely denounced every policy of the previous Administration. The one place he can go where he’s not faced with anti-American protests, and it’s because of something his predecessor did.
Very, very pathetic.
UPDATE: AP wonders what happened to the President’s watch during the frenzy:
June 12,2007 | TIRANA, Albania -- Whatever happened to the president's watch?
One moment President Bush was glad-handing Albanians on Sunday, proudly sporting a watch with a dark strap on his left wrist. Moments later, it was gone.
Did it fall off? Did one of his bodyguards remove it? Or did one of the crowd artfully slip it off his wrist and pocket it?
Heh. Maybe the Albanians are just like us after all.