[Aired May 30, 2002]
NOVAK: Welcome back. Not so long ago, if a U.S. president had gone to Russia and signed a treaty reducing thousands of nuclear warheads, or if he'd gone to a summit conference, where NATO established a new partnership with Russia, or even if he visited the D-Day cemeteries in France, the political and media crowds would have been singing his praises.
Instead, President Bush's just-ended trip to Europe, which included all that and more, has emboldened the president's critics. What's their problem? We'll find out soon. Joining us now in the crossfire are Democratic political consultant Peter Fenn, and former Republican National Committee spokesman Clifford May.
CARVILLE: Clifford, the administration sends the vice president to the Middle East to drum up support on the war from Iraq. A week later, the Kuwaitis and the Saudis are kissing the Iraqis, and didn't get one person to be for that. Then the administration sends Secretary of State Powell to the Middle East in the most disastrous foreign policy trip any Secretary of State has ever taken. The Egyptian president refuses to meet with our secretary of state. Now our president goes to Europe and has thoroughly unimpressed the entire continent by his actions.
What's the matter with this administration? You all just don't travel very well, do you?
CLIFFORD MAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know...
CARVILLE: Why don't you all just stay home?
MAY: Monsieur Carville, as you well know, it is the national sport of Europe, as well as your favorite pastime, to say that American presidents and the rest of us over here are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and declasse and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and all that sort of thing.
MAY: The fact of the matter is, this was a very successful trip. He went over there to do a few things. Thank you very much, a successful trip.
He went over there to Europe to listen to our allies, which is a good thing to do, and to tell them where we're going, particularly to make it clear that the war on terrorism is his top priority. And by the way, he signed the Treaty of Moscow, which you should deploy. It brings our nuclear arsenals down by two-thirds. That is a good thing.
CARVILLE: He listened to Chirac right to his face, criticized the United States. Then he went to the German to the Bundestag and listened to the president of Bundestag criticize the United States right to his face. What -- I remember what American presidents used to go over to there -- Eichen Berliner (ph), tear down this wall or something. Now he goes over there and is scoring political points by attacking him. What's wrong with this guy?
MAY: No, no, no. Look, there was always going to be criticism from Europe. Never more so than right now, because our agenda and Europe's are different right now. Europe's in the process of giving up national power, sovereignty, and giving it all to Brussels bureaucrats. We wish them well, but we're not doing that. We have our national interests. He expressed that. That's what a president should do.
NOVAK: Peter Fenn...
PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STATEMENT: I'm happy to get in here.
NOVAK: You'll get in. Let me ask you this question though. Peter Fenn, James Carville just quoted Ronald Reagan as saying tear down that wall. Now the interesting thing is I remember, and I think you're old enough to remember as well, that about 20 years ago when Ronald Reagan went to Europe, they called him a cowboy. The same little journalists in Europe were saying he is unsophisticated. I'll bet you you could find exactly the same quotes on Reagan as you find on George W. Bush.
FENN: The bumbling quote I'm not sure you could find.
FENN: Calling him bumbling in the London paper...
NOVAK: They called him a cowboy, didn't they?
FENN: Well, this guy they call -- is more Texan, you know, than statesman, I think is the best phrase here. But what we had here was the stuff that was prearranged. The Treaty of Moscow that you referred to, which was sealed and delivered, and all he had to do was sign it, he could have faxed his signature over there.
MAY: This always works. And you know it, with any president -- you don't negotiate that over there.
FENN: The problem with George Bush unfortunately is that when you get him out of his box, he complains about jet lag.
NOVAK: Mr. Fenn...
FENN: You know...
NOVAK: Mr. Fenn, I'd like you to listen to something the president said, because it's very hard to find all these terrible things he fouled up on, but I want you to listen to something. And I want to ask you as an American if you weren't proud of him for this. And let's listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today marks an historic achievement for a great alliance and a great European nation. Two former foes are now joined as partners, overcoming 50 years of division and a decade of uncertainty. And this partnership takes us closer to an even larger goal, a Europe that is whole, free and at peace for the first time in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: Europe is peaceful. Isn't that thrilling, doesn't that thrill you?
FENN: You know, I'm very happy to have this treaty signed. But you know, I think he should have signed it and come home, because the rest of his trip, he tells us he's not going to bring up the issue of the sexual improprieties with the pope. He brings it up. He goes out and he criticizes a journalist for using a couple of French words.
NOVAK: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Oh, come on.
FENN: Not, but the trouble with Bush is...
NOVAK: Do you know how petty you sound?
FENN: I don't mean to be petty, because...
NOVAK: You are petty though.
FENN: No, no.
FENN: OK, let me just read you what the president -- this was not written about John Kennedy when he went to Berlin. And this was not written about Jimmy Carter. And this was not written about Ronald Reagan. This is from the BBC lead correspondent.
NOVAK: BBC, oh.
FENN: Right, well I'm telling you, they're supposed to be our best buddies. I think they think he's not very intelligent. I think they think he finds it very hard to articulate his opinions. And he's the kind of rigid conviction. I don't think he really dissuaded a lot of his critics. That wasn't the case on this trip. He did himself more harm, I'm afraid, than good. And I'm not happy about it.
NOVAK: That's what they said about -- oh, yes, you are.
FENN: No, I'm not happy about it.
NOVAK: You're a political activist. FENN: Hey, I was in Spain. Let me just tell you, I was in Spain. Let me just show you this. I defended our president.
NOVAK: I bet you did.
CARVILLE: And I'm glad you did, because I feel compelled to defend him over that. Just it's kind of embarrassing when he goes. But -- this is something that cracks me up.
MAY: We don't want you to be embarrassed, James.
CARVILLE: The president of the United States went over. And he said gee, I wasn't myself because I suffered from jet lag. (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) If you can't go to Europe and play hurt, what are you president for? Why don't you stay in Texas if you can't fly to Europe and represent the interests of the United States?
MAY: James, let me respond just a little bit. This is so petty. What we had here was historic. Right now we have the best relationship between an American president and a Russian president.
CARVILLE: Are you kidding? Bill Clinton is the father of modern Russia. When...
MAY: Bill Clinton is the father of modern Russia?
CARVILLE: Yes, sir. He is the person that funded Yeltsin...
MAY: Understand something about Europe now. I have...
CARVILLE: But I asked you about jet lag. You're telling the president of the United States can't do his job, is such a ninny, that he can't fly to Europe and...
MAY: He's got Air Force One. Now Air Force One is so hard to fly. It's got a bed. It's got a shower. When I went over, I was the fat man in the middle seat.
NOVAK: Mr. Fenn, I want to get to what we're really talking about here.
FENN: OK, substance.
NOVAK: Substance. The problem is jealousy by the Europeans. Now just for a minute, let me just make my point. This is a continent now where anti-Semitism is on the rise, where anti-immigration, anti- immigrant feeling is on the rise. The EU is a real problem, the European Union. The Italian conservative government is not cooperating. When they served with the peacekeeping troops in the Balkans, they see that we have much better high tech weapons. And most of all, we have a great economy and they don't. This is -- the Europeans are jealous. And shame on you for paying attention to them. FENN: No, Bob, you got it dead wrong.
MAY: That was very brave of you.
FENN: Yes, wasn't it? I'm a brave guy.
MAY: Our president didn't cause the attacks on the Twin Towers.
FENN: But you know what? Here is a president who decides he's going to go it alone. He's going to go it alone when it comes to the global and environmental treaties. He's going to go it alone. Bill Clinton had 18 countries signing up for the Balkans.
CARVILLE: Let me just give you a chance, because I want -- not with James Carville (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) Let's see what the British press, our biggest ally, had to say about our president's performance over there. Post it up there. Let's see, "The London Independent."
"Bush sometimes seems unsure which European country he is visiting." From "The Daily Mirror," "bumbling Bush was lost for words last night." From "The Times of London," a Tory newspaper, "like certain distinctive wines, President George W. Bush doesn't travel very well." Shouldn't he stay at home?