Sunday, May 18, 2008

Commandment Chutzpah?

Since I do not particularly want to withdraw Carl Icahn's Chutzpah of the Week award (particularly since it was his first), I figure that, even though this is about as early in a week as you can get, President George W. Bush has already sealed up his ninth award for the coming week (unless he is trumped by something really outrageous). In terms of Kenneth Burke's dramatistic framework, the scene could not have been better. This is the week when the World Economic Forum again convenes, descending from its lofty Alpine summit to the sea level of Sharm El Sheikh on the coast of the Sinai wilderness. For those who accept the visions of Saint Helena, this is not very far from the mountain upon which Moses received the Ten Commandments (followed by a list of amendments long enough to fill three books of the Bible). So one has to wonder if, with his heavily faith-based orientation, Bush felt he was addressing the World Economic Forum in a voice that was channeling Moses (if not a more primary source). Here is how Al Jazeera English reported his speech:

George Bush, the US president, has called for continuing reform in the Middle East, saying democracy is the best way to nurture economic growth.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Egypt on Sunday, Bush also called on Arab nations to accept the existence of Israel and support the Palestinians.

In a tone critical of his oil-rich Gulf allies, Bush said Arab states must "move past their old resentments against Israel".

"All nations in the region must stand together in confronting Hamas, which is attempting to undermine efforts at peace with continued acts of terror and violence."

I suspect that Bush is about the only individual with enough chutzpah to take the Arab nations to task for "their old resentments" and then immediately rake up his own resentments against Hamas. Once again, as I have previously put it, Bush's words reflect the "'wisdom' of his faith-based heart;" and, given our current economic condition (not to mention his recent effort to beg for lower oil prices), this is as true of his proposition about democracy and economic growth as it is of his reflections of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. If anything good has come out of this latest burst of award-winning behavior, it has been the opportunity for the Al Jazeera staff to present their own analytical wisdom:

But his criticism of Hamas is likely to stir new controversy.

Hamas - shunned by Israel and the West since winning parliamentary elections in 2006 - has recently put forward its list of requirements for a truce with the Jewish state.

Egypt, a key US ally, has been acting as a mediator in the indirect talks between the two sides.

Amani Soliman, Al Jazeera's Middle East analyst said: "For Bush to come out and say this in Egypt ... puts the Egyptians in an uncomfortable situation."

"These people are sitting down to talk to the Israelis, albeit through Egypt."

I am hoping that such reporting will continue for the remainder of this World Economic Forum meeting. For my part I see it as a vast improvement over the media neglect of the social side of economic issues that was so prevalent in the coverage of the last meeting in Davos.

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