In 2001, President Bush gave a ringing endorsement to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight-forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue,” Bush said. “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

 

Whatever “sense” Bush received at that meeting seems to have been a bit misguided. Under Putin, Russia has failed to move forward in terms of freedom for citizens, and the recent poisoning and death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has raised new questions regarding the “straight-forward and trustworthy” leader. Litvinenko alleged that Putin was responsible for not only his poisoning, but also a 1999 bombing that was officially blamed on Chechnyan separatists.

 

Whether any of that is true is up for speculation. But what seems clear is that Bush’s “sense” of individuals has been faulty for several years now. Whether he was praising FEMA chief Michael Brown for doing a “heckuva job” or defending Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (even days before accepting his resignation), Bush has too often put his money on the wrong horse.

 

Why, then, should anyone feel good about his assertion that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was the “right man” for the job? Is that not cause for concern by itself? Bush should stop looking into leaders’ eyes and start becoming a better judge of character, before we all get a “sense” of al-Maliki’s “soul.”

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