Faith, Freedom and Bling in the Middle East
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: January 16, 2008
Maureen Dowd accompanied George Bush on his whirlwind tour of the Middle East last week and the opulence of her New York Times financed sick leave vacation brought out her inner Samantha Brown. She gushed over the extravagance of the Saudi royal family:
The $3 billion, seven-star, 84,114-square-foot pink marble hotel — said to be the most expensive ever built — would make Trump blush. It glistens with 64,000 square feet of 22-carat gold leaf, 1,000 chandeliers, 20,000 roses changed every day, 200 fountains, a dome higher than St. Peter’s, an archway larger than the Arc de Triomphe, a beach with white sand shipped in from Algeria and a private heliport. The rooms, scattered with rose petals, range from $1,598 to $12,251.She also called out a famous MTV house-envy series with its bling-bedecked rappers.
Arab TV offered an uncomfortable juxtaposition: Al Arabiya running the wretched saga of Gaza children suffering from a lack of food and medicine during the Israeli blockade, blending into the wretched excess scenes of W. being festooned with rapper-level bling from royal hosts flush with gazillions from gouging us on oil.But the basic cable host Dowd desperately wants to be is Robert Osborne. Her columns are peppered with old movie references. She compares Dubya to a bumbling Woody Allen movie character.
W.’s 11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq — even as the Iraqi defense minister admitted that American troops would be needed to help with internal security until at least 2012 and border defense until at least 2018 — recalled MTV’s “Cribs.”
Like the slick Hollywood guy in “Annie Hall” who has a notion that he wants to turn into a concept and then develop into an idea, W. has resumed his mantra of having a vision that turns into freedom that could develop into global democracy.And it wouldn’t be an article about Arabia without an allusion to the Lawrence thereof:
At a dinner last night in the king’s tentlike retreat, where the 8-foot flat-screen TV in the middle of the room flashed Arab news, the president and his advisers Elliott Abrams and Josh Bolten went native, lounging in floor-length, fur-lined robes, as if they were Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.Or to Arabian heroes:
Here in Saudi Arabia, the king draped W. with an emerald-and-ruby necklace that could have come from Ali Baba’s cave.And the Anthony Quinn film festival continues with the dancing Greek and for alliterative purposes, the sword swinging Mexican.
The president’s grandiose room included a ballroom, in case Mr. Bush wanted to practice the tribal sword dancing he has been rather sheepishly doing with some of his hosts, something between Zorba and Zorro.Visting the Holy Land made the Decider-In-Chief think about his favorite philosopher.
Asked by ABC’s Terry Moran what he was thinking when he stood on the site where Jesus performed miracles at the Sea of Galilee, W. replied: “I reflected on the story in the New Testament about the calm and the rough seas, because it was on those very seas that the Lord was in the boat with the disciples, and they were worried about the waves and the wind, and the sea calmed. That’s what I reflected on: the calm you can find in putting your faith in a higher power.”But Dowd thinks that W. might be hoping for too much. In which case, maybe another inspirational true story may be more appropriate.
Clearly, the man believes in miracles.See you at the movies and save us the aisle seats.