IN OTHER WORDS: Bush in Asia

There is an old story, perhaps apocryphal, about a Hollywood mogul negotiating with George Bernard Shaw to buy the movie rights to one of the playwright’s theatre works. After some time, Shaw told the studio boss, “Sir, I am afraid there can be no commerce between us, since you seem to want to talk only about art and I only about money.”

Shaw’s witticism could be applied to President Bush’s performance at the weekend’s Asia Pacific Economic Corporation summit in Hanoi, where he wanted to talk about North Korean nuclear weapons and the other 21 leaders wanted to talk about expanding free trade. If there was one benefit from Bush’s exposure to his Pacific Rim counterparts, it was that he had a chance to hear directly from some of them what they thought of his misguided efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons without making the North’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Il, the offer he would not want to refuse.

In the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, of all places, Bush received a much-needed lesson about free-market priorities from Asian leaders. They are travelling fast down the capitalist road and don’t want to be thrown off course by an American president who lacks the savoir faire to buy off a tin-pot dictator trying to sell his nuclear bombs and missiles for the right price.