A Back Rub That Will Live In Infamy

The week's news at a glance.

Germany

Martin S. Lambeck

Bild

George W. Bush doesn’t know how to act with other world leaders, said Martin S. Lambeck in Berlin’s Bild. The whole planet saw the footage of the U.S. president at the Group of Eight summit, where he sidled up behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and gave her an impromptu back rub. The “sudden grab at Merkel’s neck” was obviously “not at all to her liking.” It’s clear that Bush was just trying to be cute. “When top politicians meet, the atmosphere is often a bit rambunctious, as on a school field trip.” But it takes a certain amount of social and political savvy—which Bush obviously lacks—to strike the right note of chumminess coupled with respect. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, had that gift. He single-handedly saved the Russian relationship in 1991, when then-President Boris Yeltsin, invited to the Group of Seven summit, was kept waiting alone at a table for nearly an hour. Bush pere, “who saw immediately that Yeltsin was insulted, made straight for him and gave him a huge hug.” Yeltsin “was instantly placated.” Alas for Merkel, the son evidently did not inherit the father’s suavity.

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