“Can you name the president of Chechnya?”—Andy Hiller, WHDH-
TV Boston, to George W. Bush, 11/4/99
“No, can you?”—George W. Bush
You won’t hear about it on CNN,
but George W. Bush is so lost on foreign policy that he recently got the prime
minister of Canada confused with a pile of french fries, beef gravy, and cheese
That’s actually true, I swear. But let’s back up.
You remember how George W. Bush failed a pop quiz on the names of foreign
leaders? The excuse was that the governor of Texas doesn’t have to know
who’s running Pakistan, India, Chechnya, or Taiwan, the world’s
four leading potential flash points.
Which is true. Nor does he need to know the difference between Slovenia and
Slovakia; that the people of Greece and Kosovo are not known as “Grecians”
and “Kosovians;” and that the massacres undertaken by the U.S.-backed
Indonesia military were not caused because “the East Timorians decide
No, a governor of Texas doesn’t need to know that stuff. A president
does. Which is why Al Gore now challenges Bush to debate on a daily basis.
So far, Bush refuses. You can imagine why.
Anyhow, you’d think Bush would at least know the prime minister of Canada,
right? Canada is America’s biggest trading partner and shares the longest
border. They (mostly) speak the same language. Hell, George W.’s Texas
Rangers even play ball up there.
For those of you who aren’t sure, the Canadian prime minister guy’s
name is Jean Chretien. He’s French-Canadian, or what Bush would probably
call a Quebecian.
The name “Chretien” isn’t trivia; it’s a layup for anyone
able to get past $1,000 with Regis. It’s certainly not much to expect
from someone who claims to be able to lead the United States for the next
Poutine, on the other hand, is a horrifying Quebecois junk food: french fries
smothered in gravy and cheese curd.
Anyhow, a mischievous Canadian named Rick Mercer, knowing Bush’s utter
lack of knowledge about the world, asked George W. Bush a few weeks ago during
a fundraiser in Michigan if he was glad to have the support of Prime Minister
The name “Poutine” was pronounced several times in a loud and clear
voice. There’s not much possibility of a misunderstanding.
So did George W. Bush know the name of Canada’s prime minister or not?
This is Bush’s response, transcribed from an audio tape of the encounter
provided to RadioFor- Change.com by Mercer, which I have played numerous times
on my radio show: “I appreciate his strong statement. He understands
I believe in free trade. He understands I want to make sure our relations
with our most important neighbor to the north of us, the Canadians, is strong,
and we’ll work closely together.”
Imagine for a moment that same question being asked of Bill Bradley. Or Al
Gore. Or Ralph Nader. Or Pat Buchanan. Or John McCain. Or anyone you like.
Whether or not they’ve personally eaten poutine—and that act right
there might bring their judgment into question—do you suppose they just
might know that “poutine” isn’t Canadian prime minister Chretien’s
My God, it’s Dan Quayle with better parents. Z
Bob Harris’s latest book is Steal This
Book and Get Life Without Parole.