Mending Fences

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And all the allies of the United States can know we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: President Bush (search) offering an olive branch during his Inaugural Address. He'll be following up his words with action when he travels to Europe next week.

Amity Shlaes is a Columnist at The Financial Times. Ms. Shlaes, today's big question: can President Bush actually heal this rift between the U.S. and Europe?

AMITY SHLAES, COLUMNIST, THE FINANCIAL TIMES: No, he cannot. He can do wonderful things to get along with Europe; it was wonderful, almost Asian and not European, John, the way Condi Rice was in Paris sort of, allowing the Europeans a chance to feel OK, showing she honored their things. She's a concert pianist, they're the people of culture.

But there are still fundamental differences between the U.S. and Europe.

GIBSON: All right. Before I get to those, what about Donald Rumsfeld? (search) He was the big demon for the Europeans. He called them "Old Europe." He went over, he made a couple of jokes, that was old Rumsfeld. And then he smiled and he met with people, he was with McCain. He kind of let his tremendous power rub off.

Did that do any good?

SHLAES: Well, what is good, we have to ask. I think it did good because Rumsfeld is an honest character. And you may not like him, some Europeans don't, but did it please them? Not necessarily so much, no, John.

GIBSON: Why not? What did they want out of him?

SHLAES: They want out of him that he would respect and focus on them and their authority. It's like a relationship where one party wants to talk about the relationship, that's Europe, and the other party wants to go out and do something, that's the U.S.

They are obsessed with that relationship, the U.S.-European relationship. And he is obsessed with other things.

GIBSON: What remains the big rift? Even the Europeans have had to say, "Well, that election didn't work out so half bad."

SHLAES: Yes, that's right. And in that sense it is narrowing, because even Europe now must recognize that there is a momentum for democracy in the world. It used to be that people thought that would happen in places like Ukraine wouldn't matter, in Iraq or Iran.

But you see now that the Iraqis with the purple finger were acknowledging this momentum. Ukraine, Afghanistan, now Iraq. Maybe democracy can come. And Europe is coming to understand that a bit more, John.

GIBSON: OK. So, President Bush shows up and he goes around to wherever he's going: goes to Brussels, goes to France, he visits Germany, and so forth. Do they welcome him or is he still high on the suspect list?

SHLAES: They will welcome him more than they did before, just as they did Condi. Because of this recognition of the success of Iraq, yes, they will.

GIBSON: Is he going to feel welcomed or is he still going to feel like they're treating him like a Texan, a hick?

SHLAES: Well, he's big enough now that that kind of feeling we don't worry about do we? But, even if they did treat him that way, what did it matter? It's been a tremendous sweep for him.

He's had a long effort, he's not lost his nerve. There are important challenges ahead.

I think that the fight is going to be about Iran because, as you know, they have this big initiative, the European initiative: U.K., France, Germany, where they say, "Work with the Iranians and we'll prevent them from building a bomb." And yet every once in a while, Iran pulls it out from under them and says, "You know what? Get lost, Europe. We're building a bomb."

As over the weekend, there was a report with the heavy water reactor. They are going to build a bomb.

GIBSON: Amity Shlaes, columnist with The Financial Times explaining to us how President Bush will be received. Amity, it's good to see you. Thanks a lot.

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