Bush visit evokes mixed emotions in Normandy

Sunday, May 26, 2002

LISIEUX, France -- Didier Douailen, who sells space-age phones in this ancient Normandy town, has no qualms about a globalized world with a U.S. accent. But he doesn't know what to make of George Bush.

President Bush arrives in France today and is to spend Memorial Day on the beaches where U.S troops landed 60 years ago. To this day, the occasional shop window here still reads, "Welcome to our Liberators."

"I'd like to think well of Bush, but we just don't know what to expect from him, or what he will do next," Douailen said, reflecting a widely held attitude, not only in Normandy but also across France.

He fears that Bush's inexperience in foreign affairs may lead to serious conflict, and his America-first economic policies endanger world trade.

For many in Normandy, the fact that Bush emerged as the Americans' leader is reason enough to support him.

"They came to save us, and we can't forget that," said Jacques Duclos. He was 8 when U.S. bombers flattened downtown Lisieux, his father's hardware store included. Lisieux and the store are thriving again.

But others see a different world.

In Lisieux, Sebastian Leconte and Marie Frere also sell mobile phones, like Douailen, but neither made an effort to be as diplomatic. Both laughed when asked what they thought of Bush.

"Not much," Leconte said, ticking off a list of reasons that started with Bush's support for the death penalty and went on to cover his foreign policy and what he called an undefined war on nonspecific evil.

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