Mexico's Fox, in Book, Chides and Praises Bush

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By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ANTIGUA, Guatemala, Sept. 18 -- President Bush and Vicente Fox once portrayed themselves as diplomatic allies and close friends, but the former Mexican president takes some jabs at Bush in a new autobiography, calling him "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life" and a "windshield cowboy" afraid to ride a powerful horse.

Fox sprinkles anecdotes about Bush and other world leaders throughout "Revolution of Hope," recounting disagreements with Bush over the Iraq invasion and a shared hope for immigration reform that was undercut by security concerns after Sept. 11, 2001. The former Mexican leader also chides Bush's administration for unilateralism.

In launching the Iraq war without U.N. authorization, he writes, the United States "set itself up as the world's judge, jury, and policeman. . . . Can the United States afford the cost, in blood and treasure, of invading every nation with which it does not agree?"

Fox left office in December, six years after his election ended seven decades of one-party rule in Mexico. His book, written with Texas political consultant Rob Allyn and scheduled for release by Viking on Oct. 8, is likely to rattle Mexican traditionalists accustomed to former leaders quietly fading away.

While sometimes needling Bush, Fox also doles out heaps of praise, applauding his onetime U.S. counterpart for "cultural sensitivity." Fox writes that several days before the attacks of Sept. 11, he and Bush pumped hands and hugged at Andrews Air Force Base after returning on Air Force One from an Ohio immigration reform rally.

"We're going to get this done," Fox recalls Bush telling him. By then, Fox writes, Bush had improved his Spanish and had "mastered the traditional male hug of Mexican culture, the abrazo." Fox felt like "the toast of Washington," and Bush's enthusiasm, along with promising talks with congressional leaders, had the new Mexican president believing that "passage of the immigration reform package was in the bag."

Three days later, planes smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and "our revolution of hope came face to face with the walls of fear," Fox writes.

Despite the failure of immigration reform, Fox praises Bush for his "depth of knowledge about Mexican immigrants." Bush sees Mexican immigrants and U.S. citizens as "human beings of equal worth in the eyes of God," according to an advance copy of the English-language book. At their first meeting in 1996 -- when both men were governors -- Fox was touched that Bush, though "a bit sheepish about his grade-school-level Spanish," said, "C¿mo est¿s, amigo?" -- "How are you, friend?"

Fox seemed less impressed by Bush's cowboy bona fides.

Bush, whom Fox calls "my friend the windshield cowboy," demurred when Fox offered him a ride on "a big palomino" during a visit to Mexico after both men had been elected president. Fox remembers Bush "backing away" from the horse.

"A horse lover can always tell when others don't share our passion," Fox writes.

Fox, who writes that one of his aunts is a cloistered nun in Cincinnati and that his son, Rodrigo, attends the University of California at Santa Barbara, says that years before entering politics he passed up an executive job with Coca-Cola in the United States. (He had been a supervisor of Coca-Cola's operations in Mexico.) "I didn't want the Statue of Liberty, the streets paved with gold," he says.

When Bush was running for president, political consultant Karl Rove called Allyn, then a Fox adviser, hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment over Bush's failure to name the presidents of several countries in a campaign trail pop quiz.

"It's Vee-cente, not Vin-cente, right?" Rove asked.

Not long afterward, Fox found the legal fight over the 2000 U.S. election "ironic."

"At our request the United States had sent election monitors to protect the balloting process in Mexico," Fox says. "But where they might have been more useful that year was in Florida."

Staff researcher Terissa Schor in Washington contributed to this report.


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