Groper-in-Chief: Bush-Merkel Video a Hit in Cyberspace | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.07.2006
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Groper-in-Chief: Bush-Merkel Video a Hit in Cyberspace

It wasn't what most expected at a meeting of the world's most powerful leaders but a video showing US President Bush giving German Chancellor Merkel an impromptu neck squeeze at the G8 is setting the Internet on fire.


Transatlantic relations are a tad too cosy for some

It probably wasn't a moment that will go down as one of his finest, but when US President George W. Bush slid up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and grabbed her shoulders and neck, it became the stuff of comic legend.

The scene, caught on Russian TV cameras filming the G8 meetings in Russia and blitzed around the world via the Internet, shows a caught-off-guard chancellor breaking off mid-sentence with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to jerk her shoulders and throw up her balled fists.

One can almost here the "yuck" in her grimace.

Still, it was a pretty hot moment for the G8.

Love attack

The incident at first was overshadowed by other slips at the normally staid and staged meetings -- such as one in which Bush uses an expletive in a candid conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he didn't know was being taped.

But a few days after the meetings, the video clip became one of the most downloaded and shared clips on the Web, inspiring columns, comedians and even political pundits.

Bush und Merkel stecken die Köpfe zusammen

She is no Gerhard Schröder

"Bush: Love Attack on Merkel!" read the headline in German mass-market tabloid Bild .

Comedian Jon Stewart on the "Daily Show" wondered out loud if the president realized that, "You don't do that to women you don't know, especially the chancellor of Germany."

Some wondered if Bush wasn't reverting to his fratboy days.

"This isn’t a Sigma Chi kegger, it's the G-8 Summit,” wrote blogger Christy Hardin Smith on before being informed Bush was actually a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Lessons on Taste and Etiquette

Some seized on the opportunity to criticize the president politically.

"When he is away from his script and his handlers, his true lack of intelligence and emotional maturity surfaces for all to see," wrote bloggers on the Dialogue International Web site, which focuses transatlantic issues. "The dangerous situation in Lebanon ... requires true leadership. Don't look for it from the world's uberpower."

The incident was seized upon by some liberals.

Steve Young's blog on the Huffington Post Web site called Bush the "Lounge Lizard in Chief'' and extolled the "the irony of a president who's supposed to represent our best, giving the chancellor of Germany an inappropriate and unrequested backrub.''

Sexual-harassment training, maybe?

Many bloggers wondered if the president wasn't up-to-date on sexual harassment rules and office etiquette.

US-Präsident George W. Bush und Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

She didn't turn away then

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, told the Associated Press that today, public figures have to be more careful in "a thousand ways" even as he values the honesty of Web sites like YouTube, which posted the video.

"If they're not doing something that's embarrassing, they have nothing to worry about," he said. "A president ought to know enough not use an expletive in a fairly open meeting, and almost any male alive today knows that you don't offer uninvited massages to any female, much less the chancellor of Germany."

Bush fans pooh-pooh the matter saying that it was nothing to get worked up about.

"President Bush just can't win," said Fox News' Karen Hanretty. "Aren't these the same women who have been angry about cowboy diplomacy? Do they want a kinder, more sensitive Bush -- or a cowboy? Once again, there's no pleasing women. Give them the cowboy and they want Alan Alda."

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