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Winding up a five-day trip to the region, Bush took a strikingly tougher tone with Arab nations than he did with Israel in a speech Thursday to the Knesset. Israel received effusive praise from the president while Arab nations heard a litany of U.S. criticisms mixed with some compliments.
"America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organizations that are shut down and dissidents whose voices are stifled," Bush said.
"I call on all nations in this region to release their prisoners of conscience, open up their political debate and trust their people to chart their future," Bush said.
Scattered applause followed, with barely a ripple of reaction later to his declaration than Iran must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Bush arrived back in Washington late Sunday with little to show for the trip. Saudi Arabia rebuffed his plea for help with soaring oil prices, Egypt's leader questioned his seriousness about peacemaking and there was not enough progress in the peace talks to warrant a three-way meeting of Bush with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
As for Arab criticism Bush leans too far in supporting Israel, Rice said, "The president isn't pro this or pro that. The president is pro-democracy and pro-peace."
I don’t know who is writing George Bush’s speeches nowadays, but it has to be someone with really serious mental problems. It’s embarrassing enough when this clueless president attempts to speak spontaneously. Left to his own devices, he cannot string together a handful of simple words with any coherent continuity; just as he cannot offer rational responses to questions he apparently is unable to process. But when George Bush has a prepared speech to deliver to an apprehensive audience of 1,500 global policymakers and business leaders in the Middle East, you’d think he would say something intelligent. Think again.