LONDON, England (CNN) – It is always a tricky time for the White House incumbent as the race to be the next occupant of the White House hots up. Steadily he becomes a man in office, not in power. His strength ebbs away daily as key players delay their decisions pending the outcome of the succession contest.
For President George W Bush it is worse than most. A stumbling US economy and alarm at soaring world oil and food prices have compounded the unpopularity of a messy war in Iraq.
But with the aid of Air Force One, lame ducks can still fly. Travel doesn't just broaden the mind, it can reassure a waning president that his office still counts. So Bush has turned his duty visit for the annual EU/US Summit into what looks like the George Bush Farewell Tour to Europe.
The trip starts in Slovenia. The first of the breakaway states from the former Yugoslavia hosts the EU/US event because it happens to be holding the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, the first of the ex-Communist countries who joined in 2004 to do so.
Though he once greeted its leader on a visit to Washington as the Prime Minister of nearby Slovakia, Bush will probably remember Slovenia as the country where he first met Vladimir Putin, declaring: "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul...I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy."