From John O’Sullivan in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Such people are naturally sympathetic to Bush because he has spoken out forcefully in support of democracy and human rights. They gave him a thunderously warm reception. He returned the compliment: “If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, I wear that title with pride.” Liberal bloggers have been erupting indignantly at this claim. Some of them regard Bush as himself little more than an apprentice dictator. But the president took some steps to justify this claim when he came to the topic of Vladimir Putin: “In Russia, reforms that once promised to empower citizens have been derailed, with troubling implications for democratic development.” It was the kind of tough talking needed in a week when Putin had been issuing threats of nuclear targeting like some unreconstructed Cold Warrior. It had an effect. By the time Bush reached Germany for the G-8 summit, Putin was offering to collaborate on the U.S. missile defense he had previously been denouncing. And the two presidents ended up smiling together. There’s the rub. Promoting democracy can never be more than one strand in a U.S. foreign policy that has to balance competing interests and values. Inevitably the dissidents will sometimes be disappointed at the gap between grand statements of principle and the grubby compromises of diplomacy.