June 15, 2005

HIS OWN DEEP THROAT:

Bush Meets Dissidents In Campaign For Rights (Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler, June 15, 2005, Washington Post)

At the end of a private Oval Office meeting this week, President Bush asked a North Korean defector to autograph his book recounting a decade in a North Korean prison camp.

"If Kim Jong Il knew I met you," Bush then asked, referring to the North Korean leader, "don't you think he'd hate this?"

"The people in the concentration camps will applaud," the defector, Kang Chol Hwan, responded, according to two people in the room.

Bush lately has begun meeting personally with prominent dissidents to highlight human rights abuses in select countries, a powerfully symbolic yet potentially risky approach modeled on Ronald Reagan's sessions with Soviet dissidents during the Cold War. Besides Kang, Bush played host to a top government foe from Venezuela at the White House and met Russian human rights activists during a trip to Moscow last month. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met opposition leaders from the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

The sessions -- which come at a time when the Bush administration has itself come under international criticism for abuses at the prison facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere -- represent a personal follow-through on Bush's inaugural address in January, when he vowed to activists around the world that "we will stand with you" in battles against repression.

"He likes to talk to people who have experienced these things firsthand," said Michael J. Gerson, Bush's strategic policy adviser, who sat in on the Kang meeting Monday. "But there clearly is a signal here and a symbol that human rights is central to our approach, that there is a kind of moral concern."

As Bush himself acknowledged to Kang, such meetings, although heartening to activists, will surely aggravate the leaders of repressive countries.


And it wouldn't be surprising if the President is personally telling reporters about the meetings to make sure they get covered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 15, 2005 2:15 PM
Comments

Slowly read the last sentence from the Post story: "As Bush himself acknowledged to Kang, such meetings, although heartening to activists, will surely aggravate the leaders of repressive countries." There is the dichotomy. Bush thinks it's a good thing for despots to worry; the Post sees it as rude.

Posted by: Luciferous at June 15, 2005 2:21 PM

As I recall from high school English, 'aggravate' is not to be used as a synonym for 'annoy'.

One may aggravate a situation. One may annoy a person.

Journalism continues a steady, downward drift.

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at June 15, 2005 3:19 PM
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