At NATO Meetings, No Tight Schedules
BUCHAREST, Romania -- He's polite enough not to say so publicly, but President Bush is probably pretty annoyed by now. Not just that NATO rejected his bid to push two former Soviet republics closer to membership, but that they're taking so long in doing so.
Bush is famous for his rigorous fidelity to schedules and his disdain for long-winded meetings. He not only starts nearly every event on time, he often starts early and has little patience for those who are tardy. When time is supposed to be up for a meeting, he ends it, even in mid-discussion.
Robert Draper wrote in his recent book, "Dead Certain," that Bush in 2001 even locked the door of the Cabinet Room when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell showed up after the president had started a meeting. At a G-8 summit in Russia in 2006, an open microphone caught him grousing to an aide about his bloviating counterparts. "I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them," he said then. "Some of these guys talk too long."
So the NATO summit here must be testing his patience. The opening dinner last night was scheduled to last 90 minutes, which would have allowed Bush to get back to his hotel by 8:45 p.m., in time for his usual 9 p.m. bedtime. Instead, it dragged on for 3-1/2 hours -- so long that first lady Laura Bush and the other spouses finally just left on their own as the leaders continued debating NATO membership plans for Ukraine and Georgia.
With 26 members, everyone had to have a say--and that can take a while.
This morning's meetings haven't adhered to schedule any more tightly. The summit at one point lagged 2-1/2 hours behind. They're trying to make up for it now by shortening breaks and abridging some of the later sessions. But even now we're waiting for a discussion of Afghanistan to start that was supposed to begin 1-1/2 hours ago.
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