MH/Beth Reinhard: Meet the new Bush, same as the old Bush
- Posted on Sat, Oct. 13, 2007
Meet the new Bush, same as the old Bush
By BETH REINHARD
It's especially true in politics: The more things change, the more they stay
President Bush was in Miami Friday pitching free trade deals that have been
hamstrung by his slumping popularity, the Democratic takeover of Congress
and an unpredictable presidential campaign.
His former rival, Al Gore, was celebrating his Nobel Peace Prize for raising
awareness about climate change, fending off renewed pleas to run for
president, and probably feeling vindicated.
What a difference six years makes. Bush's first presidential trip to South
Florida was on June 4, 2001 -- three months before the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks that led the U.S. into war.
Only not so different. Bush's visit to the Everglades back then was meant to
shore up his environmental credentials, under attack for abandoning a global
warming treaty and a campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The more things change . . .
Check out this amusing exchange between reporters and White House Deputy
Press Secretary Tony Fratto Friday aboard Air Force One on the way to
``Tony, does the president have any reaction to Al Gore's winning the Nobel
Fratto: ``Yes, the president learned about it this morning. Of course, he's
happy for Vice President Gore, happy for the International Panel on Climate
Change scientists, who also shared the Peace Prize. Obviously it's an
important recognition and we're sure the vice president is thrilled.''
``Is he going to call him?''
Fratto: ``I don't know of any plans to make calls to any of the winners at
``Given that his approach on climate is so different from Al Gore's, does he
feel that this award is in any way sending a message about his own
Fratto: ``I'm not sure what -- no, I don't see it that way at all. No.''
``Does he think, though, that the award will place pressure on him and on
the Bush administration to do more quickly, and to maybe fall into line with
what other countries want, which are mandatory caps on emissions?''
That refusal to entertain opposing points of view is what critics say has
landed Bush in the morass that is the war in Iraq. He also displayed glints
of his appeal, making friendly quips during the speech in both English and
Spanish and rallying the crowd around a common enemy.
''And the vision I have for our hemisphere includes a free and democratic
Cuba,'' he declared.
''Viva Bush!'' someone cried.
''I'm not through yet,'' Bush retorted, perhaps referring to more than just
his speech at the Radisson Hotel in Miami.
Free trade has long been a priority for an administration that has signed 11
agreements around the world. But with 14 months to go, the next ones on the
table -- with Peru, Panama and Colombia -- are facing Democratic resistance
in Congress, particularly over concerns about violence in Colombia.
So a White House typically sensitive about playing to friendly crowds
included two prominent Democrats in Bush's visit. Simon Ferro, the
ambassador to Panama under former President Bill Clinton, participated in a
panel discussion before the speech. Donna Shalala, another former Clinton
administration official and the University of Miami president, served as the
event's co-host and got a shout-out from the president.
''The election-year realities are holding some of these free-trade issues
hostage,'' said Bush trade appointee Jorge Arrizurieta. ``It's a very
different presidential election without an incumbent.''
Beth Reinhard is the political writer for The Miami Herald.