Bush to Paris in June??
WMD: Words of Mass Destruction
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, April 9, 2003; Page A19
It was one thing when White House press secretary Ari Fleischer made a little slip last week in talking with reporters about President Bush's trip to Northern Ireland.
"Where in Northern Ireland will the two leaders meet?" a reporter asked.
"Dublin," Fleischer said.
"No, no. . . ." reporters corrected.
" I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Fleischer said. "I said, 'Dublin.' I had written down Belfast and I said 'Dublin,' " the capital of Ireland.
"A historic development, Ari," one reporter quipped to much laughter in the room.
"Thank you for the -- I was not a geography major," Fleischer said, to more general laughter.
But then on Monday, when the official White House press credentials and schedules were distributed, reporters began wondering just what was going on. Both said, "The Trip of the President to Belfast, Ireland."
Indeed, making Belfast, Northern Ireland -- which is part of the United Kingdom -- a part of Ireland, would be the Catholic Sinn Fein's fondest wish -- and the Protestants' greatest nightmare. It's the heart of the battle.
Some reporters on the trip saw the gaffes as emblematic of a larger issue: the administration's non-engagement on the issue, one that was near the top of the Clinton administration's foreign policy agenda.
Worse, while some presidential time was given to a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and to talking up the faltering Good Friday Accords that established a "road map" for resolving the conflict, Bush's focus was naturally on the war in Iraq.
Now there's talk of a postwar push for a "road map" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, another top Clinton focus studiously played down by the Bush folks.
Gotta hope that map will have accurate markings. Wonder where they'll put Jerusalem?
Bush to See Paris, Freedom
Speaking of presidential travel, Bush's trip was conducted amid especially tight security. And his meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair was held at a castle a dozen miles from town. But that may be nothing compared to another European trip planned for this summer.
In fact, a senior European official recently wondered whether Bush's security detail will let him attend the G-8 Summit, which is scheduled to be held in -- of all places -- Paris.