Sunday, June 10, 2007
Hero of Albania - President G.W. Bush
Jennifer Loven, Associated Press
June 10, 2006
Nearing the end of an eight-day trip, Bush got a hero's reception in this desperately poor country, still struggling to recover from being cut off from the rest of the world for four decades under the harsh rule of dictator Enver Hoxha. Hoxha died in 1985, and Albania emerged from isolation in 1990 but still is one of Europe's most impoverished lands.
Cannons boomed salutes from mountains overlooking the capital. Huge banners proclaimed "Proud to be Partners," and billboards read "President Bush in Albania Making History."
At home, Bush's job approval rating stands at its all-time low. But here, Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Bush was Albania's "greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times."
Throngs of people grasped Bush's hands, arms and fingers on the streets of Fushe Kruje, a small town near the airport where he stopped to chat in a cafe with business owners. Unused to such adoring crowds in America, Bush reveled in the attention. He kissed women on the cheek, posed for pictures and signed autographs. Someone reached out and rubbed his gray hair.
"Bushie, Bushie," people shouted. Some of the business people have received small loans under U.S. government programs.
The scene was uncharacteristically wild for a presidential crowd. Bush spokesman Dana Perino said later that the Secret Service assured Bush's safety, as always. "If they didn't think the president was safe, obviously they wouldn't have put him in that position," she said.
"Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense."
---The Mock Turtle, Alice in Wonderland