By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, June 21, 2006; 11:10 AM
Bush fielded two particularly pointed questions today at his joint press conference in Austria. He swatted them away angrily.
Both were based on the latest Pew Global Attitudes Project survey found the following: “The war in Iraq is a continuing drag on opinions of the United States, not only in predominantly Muslim countries but in Europe and Asia as well. And despite growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the U.S. presence in Iraq is cited at least as often as Iran — and in many countries much more often — as a danger to world peace.”
The question from a British journalist: “President Bush, you’ve got Iran’s nuclear program, you’ve got North Korea, yet most Europeans consider the United States the biggest threat to global stability. Do you have any regrets about that?”
Bush: “That’s absurd. . . . That is the United States is — we’ll defend ourselves, but at the same times we’re actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy. So whoever says that is — it’s just — that’s an absurd statement.”
And then later, a follow-up from an Austrian journalist:
Q: “Mr. President, you said this is absurd. But you might be aware that in Europe, the image of America is still falling and dramatically in some areas.
“Let me give you some numbers. In Austria, in this country, only 14 percent of the people believe that the United States — what they are doing is good for peace; 64 percent think that it is bad.
“In the United Kingdom, your ally, there are more citizens who believe that the United States policy under your leadership is helping to destabilize the world than Iran.