Bush Drops By Kabul En Route to India

President Bush made a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan Wednesday to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He then moved on to his scheduled stop in India. It's the first trip the president has made to Afghanistan since taking office. John Dickerson of Slate talks to Alex Chadwick about the meeting.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, non-profits in trouble with the tax man.

CHADWICK: First, the lead: President Bush's trip to Asia. He made a quick stop this morning in Kabul, Afghanistan. He visited with American troops, and predicted that Osama bin Laden will be captured one day.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: It's not a matter of if they're captured and brought to justice. It's when they're brought to justice.

CHADWICK: Mr. Bush made that stop on his way to India and Pakistan on state visits. This trip comes at a time when the president's popularity at home may have reached a new low.

Joining us to discuss presidential politics is John Dickerson. He's chief political correspondent for the online magazine, Slate. John, welcome back to the show.

And let me just note, there was testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday by senior intelligence officials saying that the insurgency in Taliban forces in Afghanistan are actually growing stronger. What is it that Mr. Bush wants to say, wants to accomplish, by stopping in Afghanistan at the beginning of this trip?

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Chief Political Correspondent, Slate Magazine): Well, he hopes that nobody was particularly listening to that testimony. He wants to, and the White House wanted to put him in Afghanistan, where he could meet with the head of state. The pictures will look pretty good. The president can talk about the march of democracy, how much they've accomplished in Afghanistan.

They want to sell it as a success story, and put the president in the middle of that. It creates a little news because it was a surprise trip. And it's a good piece of news they can try to manufacture, when, on all other fronts, things are going so badly for the president.

CHADWICK: And how about the bigger part of this trip? That's India and Pakistan. What are the goals there?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, the goals there, really, are to try and de-link those two countries. The United States needs to have relationships with each country. And they are bitter rivals--almost gotten into two nuclear confrontations.

And every time the United States deals with Pakistan, the Indians get angry. And every time the United States deals with India, it makes the Pakistanis nervous.

And so, the United States is trying to do diplomacy with each of the individual countries. They are trying to work out a nuclear energy deal with the Indians. And, of course, the main topic with the Pakistanis is the question of terrorism and the members of the Taliban, who are still potentially hiding out in Pakistan.

CHADWICK: Okay. Domestic politics: a new CBS News poll shows Mr. Bush's approval rating at an all-time low, 34 percent. What's the reaction there with the White House?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, the White House is feeling battered and bruised. Every day, there's another bad piece of news. The main problem is that Republicans are breaking ranks. A number of senior Republicans have broken ranks over this question of letting a Dubai-owned company operate, or have operational control of six major U.S. ports.

The bad images out of Iraq with increased sectarian violence. Everywhere they turn at the White House, something is going against them. And the poll numbers are reflecting that.

CHADWICK: You know, John, the thing is, Mr. Bush is going to India, and I was interested to see that poll numbers there show him to be very popular in that country.

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, that's right. The images coming back will be, no doubt, of the protesters that always show up for a presidential visit. But there was a poll, now, it's a little while ago, it was in May of 2005, but a Pew poll showed that India had the most favorable view of the United States above all other countries. So, it may not be a bad place for the president to be in that regard.

CHADWICK: Analysis and opinion from John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine, Slate. John, thank you again.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thank you.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.