What is it about Western leaders from Neville Chamberlain to George W. Bush who want to find good in men of bad character?
Acting as if he were endowed by special insight bestowed upon no one else, President George W. Bush declared in 2001 that he had looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and "was able to get a sense of his soul."
According to the Daily Caller.com, in a 2010 interview with talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Bush, who was promoting his book "Decision Points," was asked about his ability to see into the souls of men. The former president explained, "The reason why I said that is because I remembered him talking movingly about his mother and the cross that she gave him that she said she had blessed in Jerusalem."
Well, bless my soul, as the saying goes. No doubt several communist leaders in the former Soviet Union had mothers who went to church and took their sons with them -- until faith became a drag on upward mobility in the Communist Party. It doesn't mean any one of them underwent some drastic religious transformation.
What Bush should have asked Putin is whether he shared his mother's faith and if so, what difference that had made on his thinking? Usually when people "convert" from one belief system to another they give a reason for the shift. Not so with Putin. He has not walked the sawdust trail of redemption and embraced pluralistic, democratic or capitalistic beliefs. Quite the opposite.
In a 2005 state of the nation speech, Putin declared: "Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself."
In the Hewitt interview, Bush claimed that since that early meeting with Putin, the Russian leader had become a different person. The other possibility is that Putin has always been the same person, but lied and projected a different image to a gullible Bush who wanted to believe what he thought he saw.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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