But enough about me:
It was remarkable to see President Bush lecture Vladimir Putin on the importance of checks and balances in a democratic society.
Remarkably brazen, given that the only checks Mr. Bush seems to believe in are those written to the "journalists" Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Karen Ryan, the fake TV anchor, to help promote his policies. The administration has given a whole new meaning to checkbook journalism, paying a stupendous $97 million to an outside P.R. firm to buy columnists and produce propaganda, including faux video news releases.
"I live in a transparent country," Mr. Bush protested to a Russian reporter who implicitly criticized the Patriot Act by noting that the private lives of American citizens "are now being monitored by the state."
Dick Cheney's secret meetings with energy lobbyists were certainly a model of transparency. As was the buildup to the Iraq war, when the Bush hawks did their best to cloak the real reasons they wanted to go to war and trumpet the trumped-up reasons.
The Bush administration wields maximum secrecy with minimal opposition. The White House press is timid. The poor, limp Democrats don't have enough power to convene Congressional hearings on any Republican outrages and are reduced to writing whining letters of protest that are tossed in the Oval Office trash.
When nearly $9 billion allotted for Iraqi reconstruction during Paul Bremer's tenure went up in smoke, Democratic lawmakers vainly pleaded with Republicans to open a Congressional investigation.
Even the near absence of checks and balances is not enough for W. Not content with controlling the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and a good chunk of the Fourth Estate, he goes to even more ludicrous lengths to avoid being challenged.
The White House wants its Republican allies in the Senate to stamp out the filibuster, one of the few weapons the handcuffed Democrats have left. They want to invoke the so-called nuclear option and get rid of the 150-year-old tradition in order to ram through more right-wing judges.
Mr. Bush and Condi Rice strut in their speeches - the secretary of state also strutted in Wiesbaden in her foxy "Matrix"-dominatrix black leather stiletto boots - but they shy away from taking questions from the public unless they get to vet the questions and audiences in advance.
Administration officials went so far as to cancel a town hall meeting during Mr. Bush's visit to Germany last week after deciding an unscripted setting would be too risky, opting for a round-table talk in Mainz with preselected Germans and Americans.
The president loves democracy - as long as democracy means he's always right.