The Name Not Spoken, And A Taco Bell Commercial

The New York Times’Jim Rutenbergshares his observations after a week spent traveling with the Chimpster in Central and South America.

Try as they might to make President Bush utter the name of his chief Latin American nemesis, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, reporters who covered Mr. Bush’s five-nation trip through South and Central America could not succeed.

Mr. Bush faced at least 11 questions about Mr. Chávez either in interviews immediately preceding his trip or in the mini-briefings he held in each country he visited, including a couple in which Mr. Bush was directly asked about the avoidance.

Yet not once did he take the bait to say Mr. Chávez’s name or to acknowledge him as a person. At one point reporters considered asking him directly, “Who is the president of Venezuela?” They concluded that it would not only be too ridiculous, but that it probably would not bring the desired result anyway.


And aides traveling with Mr. Bush this week did their best to contend that he was not paying a stitch of attention to Mr. Chávez.

But Mr. Bush undercut them by suggesting during an interview with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that Mr. Chávez was indeed on his mind. Ms. Van Susteren interviewed Mr. Bush after he visited the ranch of President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay, where his host served him Uruguayan barbecue. “Venezuela has got fantastic meats,” Mr. Bush said, then caught himself. “I mean, Uruguay has got fantastic meats.”


With scandal brewing at home and protests greeting him wherever he went, President Bush seemed to be seeking solace in food.

It was certainly on his mind, and wherever he went he made some reference to what he would eat, what he hoped to eat or what he had eaten.

In a news briefing in Uruguay at Dr. Vázquez’s ranch — where meats were prepared in a giant pit — Mr. Bush said: “I appreciate your willingness to cook some Uruguayan beef. You’ve told me all along how good it is, and after we answer a few questions, we’re about to find out.”

In an joint news briefing with President Óscar Berger of Guatemala that preceded a dinner together, Mr. Bush said he was hurrying his remarks, explaining, “I’m not going to talk too long because I might get too hungry.”

Toward the end of the briefing, Mr. Bush reminded his host, “This will be your last question, Mr. President, and then we can start thinking about dinner — la cena,” then asking, “Qué vamos a comer?” — or, “What are we going to eat?”

“Tortillas,” Mr. Berger said. “We have tortillas with guacamole and beans.”

“Tortillas?” Mr. Bush said, “Qué bueno.”


Speaking with his host, President Felipe Calderón, on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush finally admitted, “Estoy lleno,” or, “I’m full.”

8 thoughts on “The Name Not Spoken, And A Taco Bell Commercial

  1. Must be a trend. In his speech in New Orleans shortly before this trip, he awkwardly told reporters gathered in a classroom (I watched on a NOLA station’s online broadcast) that among the things he had in common with the students of this particular elementary school was that, like them, when he was an elementary school student, he was also good at eating and sleeping.

  2. And how juvenile is it that he won’t even mention Chavez’ name?
    I don’t recall reading that Churchill or Roosevelt refused to mention Hitler’s name, let alone the name of any other leader.
    It’s obviously true: Bush has an emotional age of about 4. Maybe 5, but that’s pushing it.

  3. Again, I agree with you Nora.
    let me also ask, how much time was wasted by the reporters repeatedly asking, trying to get an answer, when Shrub could have taken care of the whole thing by saying the statesman-like, “I’m aware that Prez Chavez has said some rather inflammatory things about me and the USA. Unfortunately, such attitudes are a block to genuine dialog that could resolve our differences or at least defuse the situation.”

  4. even furriners shpould know, it’s all about georgie. nothin but georgie.
    our own little cult leader.

  5. …what a bad trip that musta been: people protesting him everywhere…
    Maybe he should have visitied Egypt after making an anti-semitic remark, then he would have seen a warm reception, no?

  6. This is emblematic of how this administration does things. They think it’s a privilege to be mentioned by them or to be able to have open dialogue with them. They’ve obviously never been in actual social situations in the real world without Daddy’s money to back them up: if you act like you’re better than everybody else, people tend not to listen to you. In fact, they will do the opposite of what you want just to spite you.

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