June 10, 2007


Former Stalinists Go Bonkers for Bush (John McKinnon, 6/10/07, Wall Street Journal: Washington Wire)

Albania, once the most Stalinist country in Eastern Europe, has a new hero these days: President Bush. Making the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to the tiny Balkan country, Bush received a gushing welcome from its center-right Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, and later was mobbed by thousands of ordinary Albanians at an event celebrating U.S. assistance for the fledgling democracy.

On the trip into town from the Tirana airport on Sunday morning, official-looking billboards and banners alternately proclaimed “President Bush Making History in Albania,” and “Proud to be Partners.” At the city’s pyramid-shaped cultural center — built as a monument to Albania’s isolationist dictator, the late Enver Hoxha – a giant picture of the U.S. president now covered much of the façade. The arrival ceremony included a 21-gun salute that flashed and reverberated from a hillside above the capital.

At a joint appearance in a baking hot courtyard, Berisha, a former cardiologist, hailed Bush as “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times,” and the U.S. as “the greatest and the most precious friend of Albanian nation,” as translated. If all the praise was a little over the top — as Bush’s sheepish grin suggested – it’s also true that the U.S. has long been a big supporter of the Maryland-sized country that shook itself free in 1912, after hundreds of years of domination by the Ottoman empire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 10, 2007 12:19 PM

My countrymen did me proud.

Posted by: erp at June 10, 2007 12:36 PM

I got the reference to Coach! I am humming the little tune right now: "Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic." What do I win?

Posted by: Kay in TN at June 10, 2007 3:46 PM