The Week June 9-15
9-16 President Bush departs Washington bright and early Monday morning for an eight-day trip to Europe, beginning with the U.S.-European summit in Slovenia. The tour is scheduled to take him to Germany, Italy, France and England, with a final stop likely in Northern Ireland.
The goal of the trip, the White House press secretary said in May, is "to strengthen the transatlantic partnership and to celebrate the enduring friendship between our nations based on shared democratic values." Bush will also commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift and the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe.
On Tuesday, Bush is to meet with Slovenia's president, Danilo Turk, and prime minister, Janez Jansa, as well as European Union leaders who will gather in the quiet sub-Alpine setting of the five-century-old fortified palace of Brdo Castle, near Kranj, Slovenia.
The president departs for Meseberg, Germany, to have dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that night.
On Wednesday, Merkel and Bush will hold a news conference, and on Thursday, the spotlight will be on Italy. Bush will meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the presidential Quirinale Palace in Rome, as well as with Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi -- a man Bush has described as a "good friend" and one of the president's staunchest European defenders in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq -- in his office at Palazzo Chigi.
On Friday, the president will have an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican before leaving for Paris, where he will address the Organization for Economic Cooperation and dine with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace. A formal meeting with "Sarko," as the French call their pro-American leader, follows Saturday, as will visits to the U.S. military cemetery in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes and to a French World War II memorial in Mont Valerien.
On Sunday, the president will meet with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle before dining with Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing St. in London. Bush is expected to visit Belfast in Northern Ireland next Monday before returning to Washington.
9-10 "Stand up for freedom," demands the American Civil Liberties Union, which is holding its annual conference in the District this week. Monday's get-together will feature panels on the death penalty, gay rights, surveillance and the "war on terror." The conference concludes Tuesday with a focus on immigrant rights and a luncheon featuring appearances by Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Antonin Scalia. The civil libertarians will also hold "lobby day" Tuesday.
9-14 The U.S. Army celebrates its 233rd birthday on Saturday "with a weeklong round of cake cuttings, balls, children's birthday parties and more" that starts Monday, according to an Army release. Army Secretary Pete Geren will kick off the annual celebration Monday at a Fort Myer child-development center, where he will read from a new children's book about the soldiers.
"It is important to remind ourselves that our military exists to field forces for victory just as we did in 1775," said a statement by Geren; the Army's chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.; and Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston, the Army's highest-ranking enlisted soldier. The anniversary comes while the forces are stretched thin with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our Army is a hugely resilient, professional and battle-hardened force. We are the best in the world at what we do, and we are that way because of our values, our ethos and our people -- especially our people. On this Army Birthday, we have much to celebrate and be proud of," the statement added.
As part of the celebration, the Army will conduct a public Future Combat Systems demonstration for Congress for most of Tuesday, a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, and the annual celebratory cake cutting at the Pentagon, which by tradition features the youngest and oldest soldier.
-- Garance Franke-Ruta