More resembling the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz than a top-flight presidential contender, George W. Bush underwhelmed the viewing public Wednesday during a live interview on Boston's WHDH Television. Apparently Bush left his brain on the nightstand and therefore came up short in his Q&A session with WHDH reporter Andy Hiller, who happened to ask Bush to name the political leaders in the current events hotspots of India, Pakistan, Taiwan and Chechnya. Bush went one for four, only being able to name Lee Teng Hui of Taiwan.
I suppose as a journalist, I am expected to have a rather comprehensive knowledge of facts and figures that include the names of important diplomats, politicians and heads of state. But as a candidate for leader of the so-called "free world," Bush's mind is supposed to be a steel trap when it comes to presidents, prime ministers and the like. So his sieve-like performance Wednesday calls into question Bush's abilities on the foreign policy front.
Now some might argue that this faux pa has been blown out of proportion; at least Bush's spokeswoman, Karen P. Hughes thinks so. Quoted in a Friday New York Times article, Hughes said, "For the American people the relevant question isn't how many names of foreign leaders a candidate knows, but whether he has the strategic vision for America's role in the world."
If that lets her sleep at night, so be it. But the Muslim community cannot afford to be so cavalier. In fact, Bush's comments should strike fear into the hearts of Muslims who have any care for the their brethren in Chechnya, Pakistan, Kashmir, India, and even Taiwan. For although Bush might have a strategic foreign policy plan in mind, his lack of knowledge about the aforementioned places speaks volumes as to where those issues stand on his personal agenda. And if names such as Musharraf aren't on the tip of his tongue, than one can bet his understanding of the complexities of Pakistan's current situation are non-existent. In fact, in the WHDH interview, he had this simplistic view of the Pakistani coup: "It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country, and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
Granted, everyone has a bad day. President's aren't afforded the luxury of having too many of them, but they are only human. If this was simply a huge human error, then Bush needs to let the Muslim community know that, and allay any fears that might now exist. Should he choose not to do so, then this should be an incident Muslims remember when heading to the ballot boxes.
For his sake, hopefully he will clear this up. Because after Dan Quayle, the Republican Party doesn't need another politician walking around whistling, "If I only had a brain."
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com