Pretzel attack tickles foreign press

Los Angeles Times

LONDON — Was it an al-Qaida plot? An Enron end run? Or was it as President Bush said, just a wayward pretzel that briefly felled the leader of the free world?

With two canines as the only witnesses to the presidential fainting spell, the international press has been left to speculate about what happened — and whether Bush can watch TV and chew pretzels at the same time.

"George Bush attempted to taste the biscuit with his attention focused on a football game — a combination of actions that, it appears, proved difficult," said the Greek daily To Vima.

The media responded to the pretzel pratfall with jokes, queries about Bush’s mental and physical health, and detailed explanations of the knotted American-style pretzel.

"Though not to everyone’s taste, they are not considered a health hazard," London’s Independent newspaper informed readers dryly.

True to form, the Germans consulted pretzel experts, the French contemplated Americans’ "complicated relationship with food," and the Italians looked to the religious roots of the pretzel. The Saudis worried that the scare will prevent Bush from focusing attention on what they called Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, while Britain offered Bush a few backhanded compliments.

The incident proved Bush is "a man of the people," London’s Daily Telegraph said in an editorial. "This is exactly the sort of accident that befalls Homer Simpson, night after night."

The paper was cheered by the fact that the leader of the international war on terrorism still has time for Sunday football.

Of course, most Americans didn’t end up prone with facial bruises at the end of the game — at least not from pretzels. The Independent labeled the official story "Hard to Swallow."

"Was he poisoned perhaps? Has the stress of fighting the war on terrorism while fending off inquiries about the collapse of his friend Ken Lay’s Enron overwhelmed him? Was there maybe some family tiff?" the paper asked in an editorial. It concluded that "the vanquisher of al-Qaida may have met his match."

Germany’s mass-circulation Bild, the daily of choice for blue-collar Germans, also asked if there wasn’t more to the story: "Has the president’s alcohol problem been taken up again?"

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