APEC? OPEC? Bush has bad day in Austria — oops, Australia

U.S. President George W. Bush did not have a good day at the Sydney Opera House.

He had only reached the third sentence of Friday’s speech to business executives on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum when he made his first slip.

“Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit,” he said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops, that would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. “APEC summit,” he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The U.S. president’s next slip went uncorrected — by him, anyway.

Talking about Howard’s visit to Iraq last year to thank his country’s soldiers serving there, Bush called them “Austrian troops.”

White House relocates ‘Austrian’ troops

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show him saying “Austrian,” the official text released by the White House made it “Australian.”

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others redirected him to centre stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theatre.

The event had inauspicious beginnings. Bush started 10 minutes late so that APEC workers could hustle people out of the theatre’s balcony seating to fill the many empty portions of the main orchestra section below, which is most visible on camera.

Even resettled, the audience remained quiet throughout his remarks, applauding only when he was finished.

A logistical glitch added to the woes. APEC security workers would not let members of the media who travel in Bush’s motorcade enter the Opera House with him, even though they are extensively screened and guarded by the U.S. Secret Service and routinely accompany him into public events.

As a result, while Bush spoke, the travelling media cooled its heels outside the landmark Opera House, shooting pictures and watching boats in the harbour.

From cbc.ca


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