- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Character counts

The U.S. ambassador to Australia, a longtime friend and former business partner of President Bush’s, was shocked by the way Australian critics portrayed his fellow Texan.

“It has sometimes been frustrating for me to represent George Bush here in Australia,” Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer said in his farewell address at Australia’s National Press Club this week.

“His critics like to portray him more in caricature than character. The George Bush I have known through the years is often misunderstood by the public, especially in foreign [countries]. I really don’t know why that is, but it is.”

Mr. Schieffer, who was a partner with Mr. Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball club in the 1990s, called the president “a man of enormous compassion and concern for his fellow man.”

He recounted a visit he made with the president to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after Mr. Bush’s re-election. They met many veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who suffered from “horrific wounds” that in most cases required the amputation of arms or legs.

Mr. Bush “looked into the eyes of the battered [veterans] and told them their sacrifice had meaning and it would make a difference,” Mr. Schieffer said.

“To them, it made a difference, as well,” the ambassador added. “Their commander in chief had not forgotten them. Their country was prepared to look after them.”

Mr. Schieffer also praised Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who supported the war in Iraq in the face of public opposition.

“John Howard is a man of conviction. … His leadership and friendship have made all the difference to my country and to me personally,” Mr. Schieffer said.

Mr. Schieffer compared personal character to a nation’s character.

“The 3½ years that I have been in Australia have been full of crisis and challenge,” he said.

Mr. Schieffer arrived in Australia in August 2001 and weeks later found himself addressing Australians after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“These have been times that test the character of a generation, and I have spent them here in Australia with you. … While we both look at the world differently now — we realize that our enemies wear no uniform and fly no flag — we understand that the stakes are still the same,” he said.

“Tolerance and dignity and justice are never finally won. They depend upon the character of each generation to answer their call.”

Mr. Schieffer may not be leaving diplomatic life. He is rumored to be Mr. Bush’s choice to succeed Howard Baker as ambassador to Japan.

Jerusalem embassy

A leading member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week called for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said he will urge the Bush administration to fulfill a 1995 law that requires the embassy relocation unless the move would be harmful to U.S. national security. Both President Clinton and President Bush have declined to relocate the embassy.

Mr. Brownback said he will “work hard in the coming year” to see the embassy moved to Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Muslims see Jerusalem as one of their holiest cities.

Mr. Brownback also said he will support “any military action that Israel deems necessary to defend its people against Arab terrorists.”

Opening in Bulgaria

The United States on Monday will open an embassy in Bulgaria that consolidates many U.S. diplomatic missions now spread across the capital, Sofia.

The new embassy at 16 Koziak St. will include the Bulgarian offices of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Foreign Commercial and Agriculture services and the Consular Section.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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