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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Touring Europe with President Bush
George and Laura Bush
The Bushes leave Brussels for the next leg of their tour
The BBC's Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur, who is travelling with President Bush on his first official visit to Europe, looks at how the style of the new president is being received.

When an American president ventures abroad, very little is left to chance. Teams of advance men and women have pre-planned and reconnoitered every inch and every minute of his day.

President George W Bush
Bush faces many tricky questions on his tour
He travels in a stifling bubble of privilege and isolation. From the lumbering Air Force One, he proceeds down the red carpet into the bullet-proof limousine. Madrid on day one, Brussels on day two - sometimes Mr Bush must find the host countries merging into a Euro blur.

Of course for Mr Bush, proud of his Texas roots and style, Europe is uncharted territory and he embarked on this first official visit well aware that to many Europeans he has already become a caricature of the ignorant American - a gun-toting, death-dealing, red-necked cowboy thrust into the world's most powerful job by the vagaries of a faulty electoral system.

Straight talking

To his credit, though, Mr Bush has shown a refreshing straightforwardness on the first two legs of his European journey.

His folksy, back-slapping bonhomie doesn't always translate well in the formal corridors of European power, but it does suggest a man, and a president, comfortable in his own skin, despite the sniping.


His troubled relationship with the English language was on display - "Lord Robertson" became "Lord Robinson" and he accidentally changed the date of his summit with President Putin of Russia

His joint appearance with Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson here in Brussels captured the essence of the Bush style. He positively bounded onto the stage, expressed his gratitude to the 'folks' at Nato, and nodded and winked to a host of familiar faces in the crowd of reporters.

Informal approach

While Lord Robertson maintained a formal air - he was after all sharing the stage with the most powerful man in the world - President Bush was relaxed, his language direct.

"There are people out there who hate America, want to blow us up," was his rationale for developing a missile defence shield.

His troubled relationship with the English language was on display - "Lord Robertson" became "Lord Robinson", he welcomed what he called "a new receptivity" in Europe to missile defence, and he accidentally changed the date of his summit with President Putin of Russia.
Anti- Bush poster
Many Europeans disagree with Bush's proposals

But no one was left in any doubt as to his basic beliefs and intentions. In fact, that may be this President's strongest suit in his dealings with Europe.

They may not like his message - the whiff of American unilateralism on defence, the environment and economic issues clearly rankles - but at least they know where he stands.

The last occupant of the White House was famous for his ability to tease multiple meanings from his carefully chosen words. With George Bush, two days in Europe have revealed a simple truth - what you see and hear is what you get.

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See also:

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Bush and EU seek climate concord
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Bush's tricky European tour
04 Apr 01 | Americas
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