- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

ON MEDIA

The Cold War has given way to the Warm and Fuzzy War. Once upon a time, America was fixated upon the dire images of the former Soviet Union: the Iron Curtain, May Day missiles in Red Square and one Nikita Khrushchev hammering his shoe upon a table at the United Nations, forty years back.
"We will bury you," he told the United States. Time marches on.
This week finds Mr. Khrushchev's political descendant in perfectly adorable mode, riding in a white Ford F-250 pickup truck with President Bush, aglow with goodwill and steeped in Americana during his visits to Texas and New York.
Print and broadcast media have reported every last detail, down to the pecan pie and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, bolstering a White House script that has declared the United States and Russia now have a new and improved, kinder and gentler relationship.
At least half a dozen press accounts declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "riding shotgun" in the pickup, and a half dozen more gushed over the fact that Mr. Bush called Mr. Putin "Vladimir" at one point. The sartorial demeanor of each leader was reported with relish.
"Down home diplomacy" Newsweek noted, adding that Mr. Putin had a "Texas sized smile on his face." MSNBC called the Texas summit a "reflection of the new, relaxed nature of the U.S.-Russia relationship."
Mr. Bush was "Putin on the Ritz" in the New York Daily News, "cementing their personal chemistry," while it was "presidents at home on the range … for a couple of days of old-fashioned, face-to-face diplomacy" in the Dallas Morning News.
After weeks of media travails covering the war on terrorism, the novel new image of Russia-meets-America is perhaps a welcome respite.
"It's a pleasant subplot during a story of global unrest. At a time when future enemies are emerging, it's a reassuring sight when your former antagonist lines up beside you in a comity of eras," said Matthew T. Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs yesterday.
"The visit proved to be successful in showcasing the diminished tensions; with regards to the ABM Treaty it was a lone star stalemate," Mr. Felling continued. "Only time will tell, but the visual of the two leaders seemingly carpooling sent the message that we're both headed in the same direction."
Media elsewhere recalled the bad old days, however.
"Putin's summit with Bush is now more like a summit between two Western leaders where current policies are harmonized, than an old-style meeting between East and West, where treaties were signed to prevent the sides from killing each other by mistake," wrote defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer in the Moscow Times, who mourned the passing of "the excitement of detente."
"Arms control as we have known it since the 1970s is virtually dead," he added.
"The residents of Crawford were excited about having the Russian leader in town," the BBC observed. "Some, like Air Force veteran Ray Seay, 66, noted that times have changed. 'The new ones seem a little different than Khrushchev and Stalin,' he said."
"His wife Patsy added: 'When you grow up scared to death of them and it does an about-face, it's overwhelming.'"
Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.


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