Thursday, January 27, 2005

An unusual exchange in Bush's press conference yesterday. A brave US reporter asked about violations of human rights in a country that is constantly praised by Bush for its cooperation with Israel and US on foreign policy and security issues:
"Q Mr. President, let me take you up on that, if I may. Last month in Jordan, a gentleman named Ali Hatar was arrested after delivering a lecture called, "Why We Boycott America." He was charged under section 191 of their penal code for slander of government officials. He stood up for democracy, you might say. And I wonder if here and now, you will specifically condemn this abuse of human rights by a key American ally. And if you won't, sir, then what, in a practical sense, do your fine words mean?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm unaware of the case. You've asked me to comment on something that I didn't know took place. I urge my friend, His Majesty, to make sure that democracy continues to advance in Jordan. I noticed today that he put forth a reform that will help more people participate in future governments of Jordan. I appreciate His Majesty's understanding of the need for democracy to advance in the greater Middle East. We visited with him at the G8, and he has been a strong advocate of the advance of freedom and democracy.
Now, let me finish. Obviously, we're discussing a process. As I said in my speech, not every nation is going to immediately adopt America's vision of democracy, and I fully understand that. But we expect nations to adopt the values inherent in a democracy, which is human rights and human dignity, that every person matters and every person ought to have a voice. And His Majesty is making progress toward that goal.
I can't speak specifically to the case. You're asking me to speak about a case that I don't know the facts."