Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Late Nights Take Toll on Bush

APA weary Bush fielding reporters' questions Sunday at a news conference with Chirac.
PARIS -- Maybe it was the late night out. Maybe the long flights.

Whatever the cause, it was a tired U.S. President George W. Bush who stood at a news conference podium Sunday alongside the much more animated -- and talkative -- French President Jacques Chirac.

Bush responded testily to a question about anti-American sentiment and was a bit crabby around his staff.

No wonder.

Bush, who likes to go to bed about 9:30 p.m., was up past midnight Saturday night on a cruise with President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Then it was up in the morning for visits to a church and synagogue before flying to Paris -- his fourth city and third country in five days.

So when a reporter posed a three-part question, Bush answered one part and forgot the rest.

"I'm jet-lagged," he said.

Reminded of the other two questions, Bush offered another explanation for the memory lapse. "That's what happens when you're over 55," he said. He turns 56 in July.

Chirac opened the news conference with an 11-minute statement -- an eternity by U.S. presidential news conference standards. He reviewed, one by one, the points they had discussed privately. There was terrorism, Russia, NATO, the U.S. farm bill, the environment, globalization, the Middle East and the India-Pakistan conflict.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House chief of staff Andrew Card could be seen checking their watches.

Bush's opening statement followed, clocking in at three minutes.

Despite being overtired -- or maybe because of it -- Bush couldn't resist directing some zingers at the press.

A French reporter asked him which was a more important ally in the war against terrorism -- Russia or Western Europe -- and implored Bush not to say "both."

Bush's response was immediate: "Both."

After the question was repeated -- Bush apparently had difficulty at first understanding the reporter's heavy accent -- the president had another answer.

"Decisive ally? Of course, Jacques Chirac," he said, the French president standing beside him. "Listen, thank you for the trick question."

Later, when an American reporter asking Bush about anti-U.S. sentiment used French to direct the same question at Chirac, Bush teased him, saying he "memorizes four words and he plays like he's intercontinental."

"I'm impressed. Que bueno," Bush said. "Now, I'm literate in two languages."