His poll numbers may be in the basement, but when he zipped through this small, relentlessly pro-American nation on Sunday, President Bush was treated like a rock star.
Someone less generous than I might suggest that being “relentlessly pro-American” might actually have less to do with Albanians being so decidedly pro-Bush as the fact that Albania was once the most Stalinist country in Eastern Europe. But naturally I would never suggest that Albanians’ love for Bush for more of a second-coming-of-Stalin kind of thing, because that would just be plain old rude, and I would never, ever, piss on this very, very disturbing parade.
On the trip into town from the Tirana airport on Sunday morning, official-looking billboards and banners alternately proclaimed “President Bush Making History in Albania,” and “Proud to be Partners.” At the city’s pyramid-shaped cultural center — built as a monument to Albania’s isolationist dictator, the late Enver Hoxha – a giant picture of the U.S. president now covered much of the façade. The arrival ceremony included a 21-gun salute that flashed and reverberated from a hillside above the capital.
At a joint appearance in a baking hot courtyard, [Prime Minister Sali Berisha], a former cardiologist, hailed Bush as “the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times,” and the U.S. as “the greatest and the most precious friend of Albanian nation,” as translated.
…The crowd shouted “Bush-y, Bush-y,” whistling, cheering and clapping, as Secret Service agents pulled the president from behind, holding onto his waist. It was extraordinary even by the standards of eastern Europe, where the Bush administration remains enormously popular for its steady support in the face of growing Russian aggressiveness.
Dear Albania—You can have him. Love, America