Don't you love Albania?
George Bush certainly does. This may be the only country in the world where George 'Dubya' Bush’s popularity is higher than Bill Clinton was at college. They have a 21 gun salute for him, crowds gather dressed in big tall Uncle Sam hats, and waving American flags, chanting “BOOSH-Y! BOOSH-Y!”, and turning the presidential visit into “a virtual mosh pit” according to the New York Times. Hands grabbing for him, women kissing him, men trying to kiss him - Bush is a rock star! Did I mention that this country has a Muslim majority?
Why is he so popular here?
Mainly, Bush wants what Albania wants - an independent Kosovo. The Russians and Serbs et al oppose this, but the UN is considering an independence plan and Bush thinks it is a good idea (and so do I, by the way). Oh yeah, that reminds me:
Several days ago - Bush: “At some point in time, sooner rather than later, you’ve got to say, ‘Enough is enough — Kosovo is independent,’ ”
Saturday, Bush: “In terms of a deadline, there needs to be one. It needs to happen.”
Sunday, Bush: “First of all, I don’t think I called for a deadline,”
The press remind him of what he said the previous day.
Bush: “I did? What exactly did I say? I said deadline? O.K., yes, then I meant what I said.”
The reporters laugh.
Here’s another reason, according to the NYTimes - “This largely Muslim country, population 3.6 million, is just the kind of nation Mr. Bush likes best: a nascent democracy whose history includes a dramatic break with totalitarian rule.”
Albania has THREE postage stamps featuring Bush (more than the USA, I believe), and the street in front of Parliament has been named after him.
Oh, and here’s why Bush REALLY loves Albania:
“U.S.A. have the right and responsibility for all the world to protect the freedom,” said Ilir Lamçe, 37, a financial analyst who was among those waiting for Mr. Bush, using English to express the views of many. “This is the right war.”
Sami Berisha, who drove seven hours from Kosovo to see Mr. Bush, said he could not understand anyone who would take part in a protest against the president. “I think these are crazy people,” said Mr. Berisha… “because democracy begins in America.”
Sadly, there are no direct flights between Auckland and Tirana - so I guess I won’t be going to God’s Other Country just yet …