Saturday, June 06, 2009

W's D-Day speech

From Politics Daily here.
Twenty years later, when George W. Bush went to France, he had an even harder job. Bush's host in 2004 was French President Jacques Chirac, who had broken with the Bush administration over the invasion of Iraq. At a joint Paris press conference I attended on June 5 of that year, the body language between the leaders was terrible, the tension palpable. Yet, the following morning Bush won over Chirac with a remarkable, if unremembered speech – one of the best of Bush's presidency.

One reason it is not well remembered is that Reagan, that old trouper, that ham, died that morning – and the news of his death blotted out the sun, as far as the media was concerned. This included those of us making the European trip with Bush, and who found ourselves writing about the 40th president of the United States instead of the 43rd. In addition, and this is real inside baseball, the geniuses who ran the Bush press office made it very difficult, logistically, to cover the president's speech. I am proud to report, however, that yours truly arose at 3 a.m. for a bus trip from Paris to Normandy to be there for the event.

It was well worth it. Prefaced by a gentle nod toward Reagan ("a gallant leader in the cause of freedom"), George W. Bush gave as noble an explication of why democracies fight as any president ever has.

Standing at a lectern with a clear view of the English Channel, packed with vintage ships from the Second World War, Bush spoke of the great battle that had taken place below the cliffs in front of him, and how, when the firing had finally ended and the wounded and dead were removed from the beaches, the sand was still littered for mile upon mile with the equipment of the armies and the belongings of the boys who had given everything they had.

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