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When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran by a narrow margin, the U.S. experts predicted he wouldn’t last three months. Ahmadinejad’s approval ratings are now in the 70 percent range (as opposed to President George Bush’s 30 percent range). At the present, he seems assured of re-election.

According to Iranians quoted in a British newspaper article, his popularity is a result of his honesty and the fact that he is not as radical as some had feared. He pushed to allow women to attend soccer games, and he has criticized the lifestyles of some of the clerics. He is an Islamic populist.

He is certainly one of the most misquoted men in the world. Having read the text of some of his speeches from which a few words were lifted by the American press, it’s easy to see how his words are distorted for propaganda purposes, but that is par for the course of everyone who gets picked as the enemy of the day by the U.S. government. He has never threatened any country.

Our president still seems to think that he can deal with the rest of the world by issuing ultimatums. You will not enrich uranium, he has told Iran. You will disarm and do it in exchange for nothing, he has told the North Koreans. Neither country is likely to respond to threats and ultimata — especially having watched how Mr. Bush has turned the Iraq War into a cluster of errors, blunders and corruption.

In fact, a joke going around is that Mr. Bush invaded Afghanistan and created an Islamic republic and then invaded Iraq and created an Islamic republic; therefore, there is no need to invade Iran, because it is already an Islamic republic.

I seriously doubt the Bushies will invade Iran, though they might bomb it. Even doing that will have unpredictable consequences. It’s no wonder that most of the world now sees the U.S. as the greatest threat to peace.

Bush and the Neocon Gang won’t touch North Korea, however. They are afraid of it. A war on the Korean peninsula would make Iraq seem like a military picnic. Casualties in a Korean war would be measured in the tens of thousands, and very quickly, too. Koreans, north and south, are tough people, and nobody should ever make the mistake of thinking that a dictator’s army can’t fight just because the country is poor economically. World War II came roaring out of the Great Depression, yet both Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin fielded armies that could fight. Our "poor boys" did quite well themselves.

Some years ago, a few South Korean demonstrators chopped off their fingers to demonstrate their sincerity. That’s taking gestures a bit too far in my book, but people who can get that passionate about politics should be left alone.

Someone should remind Bush that China got involved in the first Korean War to prevent what it considered to be a potential U.S. ally from occupying territory adjacent to its borders. I don’t think China’s policy in that regard has changed.

Still another president more popular than Bush is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The Bush administration is presently engaged in a campaign of bribes and bullying in an attempt to prevent Latin American countries from voting Venezuela a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That childish scheme will probably fail, too. The Bushies are backing that important country, Guatemala.

Let’s face it, folks. We have a spoiled frat boy in the White House, and all we can do is pray that he doesn’t cause too many more deaths and economic disasters before his term expires.

Bush and campaign grand wizard Karl Rove fooled the American people — some of them twice. Let’s hope we have a better choice in 2008 and make a better decision, though I don’t envy the person who has to come in and clean up the fiscal and foreign-policy messes of this administration.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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