The journos accompanying Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on his state visit to the United States were quick to note that on three different occasions he and President Obama sported similar attire.
At an official dinner Michele Obama, as Borisov himself reported, inquired who Bulgaria's first lady was, because she was impressed by the good taste she showed.
In fact, Borisov told the pro-government TV7, it was a bodyguard, one Tsikov, who had suggested the prime minister changed suits because the one he had been wearing was crumpled. Borisov, himself a former bodyguard, said Tsikov was now begging not to hear the expression "first lady" for fear he would be the butt of jokes by his colleagues in the service.
Borisov's visit to the United States was widely used by the Bulgarian media to show what was represented as White House approval of GERB's policies at home. Unable or unwilling to differentiate between protocol platitudes and real policy statements, the pro-government media highlighted Obama's "endorsement" of Bulgaria as "America's closest ally in the region."
Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov reported that Barack Obama said he would be voting for GERB if he was Bulgarian. One commentator was quick to intone: "Whoever doesn't vote for GERB will be committing high treason."
Losing support at home over its inability to produce solutions to the ongoing economic crisis and its increasingly heavy-handed methods to suppress political dissent, the GERB establishment hopes to capitalise on the US "endorsement" to convince voters it is doing something meaningful.
Few if any media noted the similarities between what Obama told Borisov and what George W. Bush said to former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, now Borisov's arch enemy. Then Bush referred to Stanishev as "Mr Clean" and praised him for his fight against corruption and nepotism. According to GERB, Stanishev's three-party coalition was the most corrupt Bulgaria had ever seen.