Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende believes that US President George W. Bush was expressing concern about the murder of Theo van Gogh when he referred to the Netherlands on Monday.Why does it say "believes?" You'd think Bush either did or did not express concern about the van Gogh murder. Turns out Bush didn't actually mention van Gogh:
"We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands," Bush said during a speech in Brussels.Don't get me wrong. Without more context for the remark, there are only two things I can imagine the reference to "violence...in the Netherlands" was meant to cover: van Gogh's murder and/or the vandalism of mosques and Muslim schools that followed.
It's just that Bush, like other politicians, doesn't write his own speeches. Whoever wrote that line presumably knew about van Gogh, but I honestly wonder whether Dubya himself knew what he was referring to even as he uttered the words on the teleprompter. Not that I'm sure he didn't know; but there's a non-trivial chance that he didn't.
The prime minister intended to take up the matter with Bush on Wednesday.It might be a bit awkward if Dubya doesn't know what the hell Balkenende is talking about. Even his supporters have to concede that spontaneous, articulate speaking is not Dubya's strong suit. If he think's Balkenende is talking about Vincent van Gogh, I can imagine an Abbott and Costello-style dialogue ensuing.