In the darkest days of his presidency, Richard Nixon escaped to foreign countries. As the noose tightened around his political neck, he felt much more comfortable in the company of Leonid Brezhnev than with anyone in his own government; happier reveling in the contrived public celebrations of the dutiful Soviet citizenry than daring to darken his own American streets.
It is much more of a stretch for Junior Bush to come up with a friendly foreign place. Say what you will about Nixon (and I will if you don’t), he knew the difference between diplomatic delicacy and the kind of dangerous ham-fisted international brinkmanship practiced by Bush and his team. Even with a superior doomsday nuclear arsenal pointed at the Soviets, Nixon knew not to make too much of it. He didn’t bluster; he negotiated as best he could with a more dangerous "enemy" than al-Qaeda will ever be. The result was an uneasy but effective detente and, more importantly, a place for Nixon to hide when he needed a warm-welcome pick-me-up.
If Junior has any thought of ditching to "friendly" countries as he winds up his disastrous tour as president, the pickings will be slim indeed. Sure, he could always find a cozy desert tent in Saudi Arabia, as long as he and the unpopular king don’t try to walk around in public. If he wants a friendly reception in Old Europe, he better haul ass over to Britain before Blair hits the road. All told, there are many more counties in this pissed-off world that would just as soon arrest George Bush as invite him to dinner.
But, according to press reports, our Boy President seems to have bought a friend in Albania. A charter member of the Coalition of the Shilling, Albania cleaned its drab streets, brought out red-white-and-blue bunting and even put out a commemorative stamp of Junior’s face, certainly a first-and-only for the soon-to-be trash-bin-of-history embarrassment. "Bush is the president of the world. He is like a king to me," gushed a confused 18 year-old Albanian, no doubt reading Cheney's press releases and trying a bit hard to please. Bush complied with the near-child’s lofty view of himself, proclaiming that his support for the independence of Kosovo (an important issue because that country has a majority of ethnic Albanians) in terms familiar to Americans who have had to tolerate his unearned arrogance for over 6 years: "The question is whether there's going to be endless dialogue on a subject we've already made up our mind on," proclaimed Bush, making me want to take the other side immediately. What’s all this mindless chatter? So it is written, so let it be done.
It’s hard to see why Albania would want to become (even more of) an international laughingstock by joining the George Bush Fan Club (membership: one). They have a goal of joining the European Union – yeah, like that’s gonna happen now. Apparently, the post-Cold War Albanians got close to the U.S. after Bill Clinton intervened in Serbia. Nobody told them, I suppose, that Bush is the Anti-Clinton, both by design and by destroying everything that Clinton – and the 41 presidents before him – built up over the years in international respect and influence.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Bush was Albania's "greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times." Wow. Doesn’t say much for Albania, does it? Maybe they should start inviting some Hollywood stars over – you know, liven the place up a bit.
But, hey, even bad presidents need a place to get away once in a while. Albanians can look forward to seeing a lot of Bush in 2008 since he won’t be needed around here much – he certainly will not be campaigning for GOP candidates, who would just as soon make his ticket to Albania one-way.