Jewish World Review May 1, 2002/ 19 Iyar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Consumer Reports

When the president
wears a clothespin

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A president's lot is not a happy one. You could ask George W. Bush. We owe him a lot. (We owe the first lady a lot more.)

He's trying to make the civilized world safe from Islamist thugs and terrorists, to keep a steady supply of gasoline coming for America's SUVs, to shut up the yapping from Europe and the Little Sir Echoes among the Arabist toadies in Foggy Bottom.

There's big news of Breakthrough No. 127 in the Middle East, with Mr. Sharon agreeing to pull out of Ramallah and Bethlehem and Yasser Arafat agreeing, sort of, maybe, to get his thugs to postpone sending the next round of Palestinian children to blow themselves up in an Israeli pizza parlor. Everyone expects Mr. Sharon to live up to his agreement. Does anyone expect Yasser Arafat to live up to his?

The president is recovering from his bonding session in Texas and the first lady is still trying to get all the fleas out of the bedding in the guest room at the ranch, where the president had to entertain Prince Abdullah, or, as everyone politely calls him, "Crown Prince Abdullah," even though royal blood in that part of the world is only as authentic as the royal blood in the court of the queen of the annual Yell County Turkey Festival. Maybe less, since Miss Perfect Drumsticks of the Ozarks is chosen by an honest count of the judges.

George W. had to give up a lot in Texas, beginning with some of the dignity of his office. The rest of us had to suffer the insufferable arrogance of the Saudi royals, who are so contemptuous of women that air-traffic controllers in three Texas cities were asked to clear the control towers of women so Abdullah's plane wouldn't be directed by female voices. The Saudis now insist that what happened didn't happen, but who do they expect us to believe, hirelings of His Royal Oiliness or American air-traffic controllers?

George W. suffered the infuriating indignity of having to expose Laura to men from a 12th-century culture that regards women as little more than slaves, to fetch and carry and produce little "princes" and "princesses" by the hundreds. Not only that, he had to drive Abdullah over the ranch in his pickup truck in the interest of "bonding," even discussing - so the president said - the consolations of religious faith with a man whose kingdom and culture treat George W.'s Christian faith as trash - and a felony.

When George W.'s daddy went to Saudi Arabia a decade ago, and Christian boys from Tennessee and Indiana and Jewish boys from Brooklyn and Los Angeles were dying in the desert to save Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein, the president of the United States was not allowed to say a Christian prayer with his own troops, but retreated to an American ship for a thanksgiving ceremony. While the "crown prince" was in America last week to "bond" with George W., several young Filipino women, guest workers in Saudi Arabia, were publicly flogged for the "crime" of praying in the name of Christ in a private home, and when Ari Fleischer, the president's press spokesman, went to speak to a Jewish congregation near the president's ranch, the synagogue was cleared of reporters lest a story of reassurances of Mr. Fleischer, a Jew, offend the Muslim sensibilities of the visiting Saudis.

In return for a three-quarter grovel, George W. got a lecture and a demonstration of breathtaking chutzpah. "America is a country that was based on justice and freedom and doing what's right," said the "crown prince" of a kingdom that denies justice and freedom for all but members of the corrupt household of Saud, "and America should pursue those principles in its foreign policy."

We don't know what the president told the "crown prince." Perhaps he put a clothespin on his nose, as presidents must sometimes do, and practiced the excess of good manners for which his family is famous. Or perhaps he politely called the prince's bluff. For all its oil, Saudi Arabia needs America more than America needs Saudi Arabia. With soaring inflation and a booming population Saudi Arabia needs U.S. investment and the know-how and technical help (some of it Jewish genius) to keep the kingdom afloat on its pool of oil. The ranch was not Abdullah's only Texas destination. He went to Houston as well, to discuss with U.S. oil companies the financing and construction of a vast natural-gas project the kingdom yearns desperately to build.

If the Saudi oil pipeline to America dries up and the American economy collapses, all those princes and princesses might have to learn how to boil the water for tea, and wash and dry the teacups. Like everything else in Saudi Arabia, the oil threat is a fraud, too.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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