| President Bush and first lady Laura Bush with Hilma Chang, a volunteer at the USS Arizona Memorial, in Hawaii on Thursday. (AP)
Honolulu, Oct. 24 (Reuters): Globe-trotter George W. Bush skidded to a halt in Hawaii yesterday after a week-long sprint through six Asia-Pacific nations, spending mere hours in most.
Not a big tourist, Bush stopped long enough only for official meetings, seeing little of what each country had to offer.
Aides cited several reasons for his high-speed travel, but the overriding ones were: He wanted to get his business done and move on, and he didn’t want to burden governments with long stays given security concerns these days.
Thus you had a four-hour visit to Indonesia, a 20-hour visit to close ally Australia, a layover in Tokyo.
His first stop on the 26,629-mile odyssey was in Tokyo, where he saw the inside of the palace, ate dinner and was given two things by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: the nickname of “Beef Man” because of his fondness for meat, and a Sony robot dog that responds to spoken command.
The only problem was the dog only responds to commands in Japanese, and Bush speaks Texan and Spanish.
On to Manila for an eight-hour state visit to the Philippines, Bush could not stay overnight due to security concerns related to fears of a militant attack.
So after putting on a formal barong shirt and having dinner with Philippine glitterati, it was back on Air Force One bound for Bangkok for the night.
In the Thai capital, Bush remained behind closed doors in meetings with various world leaders throughout the two-and-a-half day stay, venturing out only for a brief tour of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
It was said that President Calvin Coolidge won a bet to a man who said he believed he could get Coolidge to say more than two words. “You lose,” said Coolidge.
That is an important context given Bush’s reaction to seeing the Emerald Buddha.
“Inspiring,” he said, and kept moving.
Maybe it would not be so striking except for the memory of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who could wander in a museum for hours and hear endless commentary from tour guides, and even tell the tour guides a thing or two.
Ronald Reagan would spend days just getting to Asia to adjust to the time difference.
“Different presidents are going to have different styles, no question about it,” said White House communications director Dan Bartlett.
It was dark by the time Bush got to Singapore. He talked terror with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, had a meal, slept, and was up and gone bright and early for Bali, Indonesia.
In Bali, the brilliant backdrop of turquoise sea, breaking surf and waving palm fronds invited a slow pace. But it was not to be. At a joint news conference, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri looked tempted to call on more than four questioners. This could turn it into an extended session and cost some more time before the next flight.
Bush started edging away from the podium. He looked at Megawati and said, “That’s it.” And she reluctantly agreed.
It was on to Australia. He did not see any of the sprawling green acres that might give him a taste of his own beloved ranch back in Texas. He went to the parliament building on Thursday, gave a speech, was heckled by a couple of members, and was on Air Force One to Hawaii.
Crossing the International Dateline, it thus became Thursday again. He toured Pearl Harbour, and had an evening fundraiser planned. Why not spend the night' That is what his staff thought. But no. Bush only had one vote, but it was the one that counted.