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Bush at Boao – another fine mess

"This is my first overseas trip since I ended my presidency," said George W Bush to applause as he began his speech on the future of US-Asian relations at a dinner session on April 18 at the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, China.

The former leader of the free world launched his career as a post-presidential speaker with an anecdote about walking his dog in Texas after leaving the White House; the hound in question, Barney, had apparently spent his whole life in Washington and took the opportunity of a move down south to foul the immaculate lawns of Bush’s neighbours. "In my country we carry a little plastic bag [for these situations]," Mr Bush continued, "and after eight years in office there I was picking up after Barney. I was picking up what I had been dodging for eight years."

The audience duly chuckled, although having spent the day debating how best to recover from the mess created by the credit crisis spawned in the US, they might have been forgiven for feeling that they too were doing the picking-up. Audience members hoping for a verbal gaffe of the sort that regularly enlivened Bush’s speeches during his time in office will have come away disappointed.