Apparently prompted by the eager Condi Rice (see paragraph 22), Dubya convinced himself before they had even met that Putin would become a best friend for life.
Of course, the quote from the first engagement at the Slovenian Summit in June of ’01 at the Brdo Castle in Slovenia is famous by now:
“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. “I was able to get a sense of his soul. “
But that was then and this is now. This week, we saw a return to a more unremarkable get-acquainted process marked by the mundane realities of healthy distance; feeling other people other out; and, yes, skepticism for gamesmanship and power-tripping. Perhaps that’s why, as the NYT reported, Obama slipped not once, but twice, in referring to Putin, the enduring heavy in Russia, as (still) the country’s President.
The image above — one of dozens and dozens, I might add, that captures Bush and Putin (only too happy to indulge Bush’s fantasy) in an intimate grip — is the parting photo from that first Slovenia summit. The second image, as Obama engages the hard-nosed Putin, captures Barack at Putin’s dacha outside Moscow doing what Bush never did, which was start by breaking the ice.
(revised 4:20 pm PST)
(image 1: George Herbert/A.P. IMAGE 2: Novo-Ogarevo, July 7, 2009. ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images. linked pickup image: Crawford, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001. Either AP Photo/Doug Mills or REUTERS/Win McNamee.)