President's trip a fence-mending process
This past week, President Bush made the first overseas trip of his second term, visiting Belgium, Germany and Slovakia during a five-day visit to Europe. More than anything else, this trip was designed to give the president an opportunity to sit down at the table with some world leaders who in recent years have been less-than-supportive of the United States and its work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most of you probably remember that many of our traditional European allies, particularly France and Germany, were unwilling to support the U.S.-led coalition as it undertook operations in Iraq. In fact, the motivation to liberate the Iraqi people from an oppressive dictatorship and eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was not in the interests of many foreign leaders, some of whom labeled President Bush and other leaders from this country and abroad as war-mongers.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder even used the intense feelings of his country against our president as the basis of his most recent reelection campaign. In this instance, Schroeder won because he was successfully able to focus more attention on the hostility towards the United States than on the possibility for reducing the number of global threats.
With the president's return to the White House, it has become apparent that many leaders who expected him to be gone after only a single term have been forced to reconsider their position with regard to the United States.
Even after having been demonized by the foreign media and the citizens of several European countries, President Bush has clearly demonstrated the political maturity and wisdom to rise above the fray. As always, he continues to focus on the global good and on substance rather than image.
Already, the short-term benefits of this trip are becoming obvious. During a three-day stay in Brussels, the president met with the leaders of several NATO nations, including a session with French President Jacques Chirac. While only ceremonial, these meetings nonetheless are an important first step in rebuilding relations with our allies.
Later in the week, President Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a stop in Slovakia. While there had been much advance speculation that the conversation between the two men would run hot