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September 23rd, 2008
03:29 PM ET

President Bush's about face

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/23/art.bush.un.jpg
caption="President Bush speaking at the U.N."]
Elise Labott
CNN Producer

Watching President Bush’s farewell speech to the United Nations General Assembly, I was struck by the about-face this administration has taken on its relevance.

In his early years President Bush could barely contain his disdain for the U.N. and other global institutions. He saw it as a massive bureaucracy which tied U.S. hands and he didn’t even appoint an envoy to the U.N. for nine months after taking office. He refused to pay U.S. dues to the U.N. and withdrew from a number of international treaties supported by the U.N. members, like the international criminal court, the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Today he said, “the United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever.”

The 9/11 attacks changed everything for President Bush. The United Nations Security Council supported the U.S. war against Afghanistan. And even the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq without the Security Council’s authorization; President Bush lobbied the U.N. to support the American occupation and the massive project of rebuilding Iraq. Since then the U.N. has overseen two elections in Iraq and helped the country with its constitution.

Since then the administration known for “going it alone” has turned to the United Nations for everything: fighting terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation and trafficking and cracking down on North Korea on Iran. President Bush worked through the United Nations to kick Syrian troops out of Lebanon and forge a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.S. has pushed for peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Haiti, and Lebanon and has been a champion of U.N. efforts to fight diseases like AIDS.

After allowing the U.S. to rejoin the U.N. cultural organization UNESCO, President Bush appointed first lady Laura Bush as an honorary ambassador to the organization’s literacy program. And President Bush’s daughter Jenna even worked as an intern for UNICEF, the U.N. organization advocating for children

Talk about a 180.

While President Bush was speaking about Iran, the pool camera cut away to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who turned and waved. After three U.N. Security Council resolutions and a host of sanctions against his country, Ahmedenijad's sense of humor seems in tact.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. DREW N DC

    I dont know why anyone would follow the GOP after the last eight yrs. You want to fix the economy bring back all the jobs that got shipped over seas. Open all the factories that were shut down in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Iam a Local Union President in DC and I know the attacks of the GOP or better yet the "ABOUT FACE" you did to help Middle Class Union folks blacks, whites and latinos loose thier homes by doing away with our jobs!! THANKS BUT NO THANKS MR. BUSH. I know you heard that before?

    September 23, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  2. Brianne, Texas

    Bush had to take a "calmer" tone than usual with the UN. I just keep thinking about the mess that he has left this country in and all I can do is shake my head and hope for 4 better years...

    September 23, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  3. Larry - Melbourne, FL

    President Bush does not have to many options now. A negative economy makes it difficult to taken on "evil" around the world. It cost money to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US cannot take care of issues in Africa, Georgia, and other places without the United Nations. US must deal with foreign government and companies because of the average American improper use of their money for many years. The US has no choice to work with world. I think President Bush is a great person. Most people agree that President Bush did not perform well in office for 8 years. It is not President Bush's fault that the US must work with the United Nations. Only a few men like President Bush has integrity, honor, and love for this country. I know President Bush feels very sorry for all those who sacrafice so much for this country in the last year. My father died many years ago. If had to have another father I wish it was President Bush. I wish I could give President Bush a big party for a good well done. President Bush is a true "hero" to a poor Republican like myself.

    September 23, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  4. Heather,Ca,US

    I can remember when Bush said we were not nation builders. He said many things eight years ago. He didnt like us being in Bosnia and Kosovo. We had the incident with our spy plane having to land in China. I think if it hadnt been for 9/11 he would have been out of office. I think 9/11 completely and totally changed him. It rocked him to his core. Im a Dem, but if you look at the fact that nothing of this magnitude of the 21st century had ever happened in the history of this country. The war on terrorism became his legacy. I think his views of world affairs and the UN have no doubt changed. We can all disagree and argue over gitmo etc. But for someone who became a member of a club that no one wants any invitation to, he has done all he could to protect us from a repeat attack. We can all judge him all we want, but I see someone who sees the world very differently than when he arrived. We arent the same as a country or a society either. I just wonder what he will do next.

    September 23, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Bush is a disgrace.

    September 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  6. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    P.S. This guy has been a day late and a dollar short on just about every issue facing this Nation !

    September 23, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  7. Andy - Atlanta, GA

    He didn't refuse to pay UN dues. Just that no-one was willing to loan him the money.

    September 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  8. Ann.

    What else is new, Elise/Anderson? He’s done that all year long. These being his last 4 months in Office, maybe he is trying to mend a few fences, who know what his Agenda is?

    September 23, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  9. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I guess Bush learned as most rational leaders do that to play in the sandbox of world affairs you have to get along with your playmates, follow the rules, and share your toys, juice boxes, and cookies. Let's just hope whomever follows him into office also realizes that some things are non-negotiable in the sandbox no matter how much you whine about wanting change.

    September 23, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  10. Maureen, Newman California

    About face? More like Two Faces.

    September 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm |