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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 00:19 GMT
Tour diary: Bush in Europe
US President George W Bush is in Europe, attempting to rebuild relationships strained by the war in Iraq. BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb is travelling with the president. Here is his diary from the third day of the visit.

23 February

The politically sexy Condi Rice

Some amazement at the warm-up act for the President at his US airbase visit before he left Germany.

Cheerleaders - scantily-dressed and provocatively choreographed - charged around the stage, shaking their assets at the assembled troops.

The trouble was, the troops had brought their wives. The audience wore the fixed expressions of people who were aware they were witnessing a bad idea in action.

Admittedly, this was an all-American affair, and cheerleading is an all-American, wholesome sport.

But these pictures were available to any TV station in the world - including the Muslim world.

Also warming up for the president was Condoleezza Rice, wearing a skimpy... only kidding.

But she was there, and in the very interesting new role of American superstar in her own right.

Sure, she is already a well known figure. But national security advisers are not - I'm talking politically now - sexy. Secretaries of state, on the other hand, project real power.

I noticed Condi afterwards posing for photos for soldiers.

If she can do the touchy-feely stuff as well as she does the clever stuff, then she is surely a contender for the presidency in 2008.

I noticed, incidentally, that many of the soldiers wanting to have their photos taken with her were black.

A Republican who gets the religious vote and the conservative vote, the wealthy vote AND the black vote, now that would be something...

Game on Herr Schroeder

Fortified by an extraordinarily fine lunch, I have fallen back in love with Europe. Wild mushroom ragout would be an inconceivable menu item at an on-the-road lunch stop provided to journalists back in the good old USA.

There is a refinement to some aspects of European life which simply can't be matched in the New World.

I talked yesterday about the attractions of the plain speaking President versus the complex Europeans - but there is of course a downside to this simple virtue.

Complexity and texture is sometimes rather satisfying in cooking and in language. At the news conference the German Chancellor said the two men had agreed that they should not emphasise their disagreements.

The faint irony of this comment was lost on American ears. They have reported it as "diplomatic speak" - not as a rather clever and gentle way of disposing of the subject.

In this great week of Euro-US harmony I was cleaving towards the Yanks while in Brussels but nine hours in Germany and one good meal and (as they say stateside) GAME ON!

Strange sights in Germany

Time to leave Belgium and all the good friends we have made in our two days in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, sorry that should read country.

I have to report that not all in the White House press corps appreciated the nation's cuisine of which Belgians are (justly) very proud.

Faced with another round of exquisite jellied meat products I heard a secret service agent expressing in pithy terms a desire for hamburgers. Very old white house.

But to Germany and the strangest sight. There is nobody here. They've all been cleared away.

It's almost totalitarian in its reach and efficiency: the motorways are closed, whole towns we pass on the way from Frankfurt airport have been cleared of people. Our German colleagues say everyone on the motorcade route was told to stay indoors.

The result may be more secure but it is eerie nonetheless - a political meeting without any public involvement. Freedom on the march but no-one free to see it.




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