Having gambled boldly on a Bush re-election, Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrived in holiday-season Washington on Saturday to cash in his chips - with little apparent success.
Musharraf called on Bush at the White House for his eighth meeting with the US President following a contrived refuelling halt in Washington after visits to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico earlier this week.
But the Bush administration shot down - at least publicly - hopes for F-16 fighter jets that Musharraf is desperately seeking, ahead of any other aid or item including education funds.
Bush however refuelled Musharraf with praise for his frontal role in the war on terror after his post 9/11 turnaround and his more recent withdrawal of troops from tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.
"His army has been incredibly active and very brave... flushing out an enemy that thought they had found safe haven," Bush said in brief remarks at a photo-op.
He characterized Musharraf as a "determined leader to bring to justice not only people like Osama bin Laden but to bring to justice those would inflict harm and pain on his own people."
The reference seemed to relate to domestic terrorist groups in Pakistan which were once covertly patronized the establishment.
"I am very pleased with his efforts," the US President added. Bush fitted Musharraf into his schedule on a Saturday when he is slated to watch the annual Army-Navy football game.
But Musharraf's effort to ingratiate himself to Washington was upended by the US media, which cast doubts on his commitments to the war on terrorism.
The Associated Press wire service began its story saying "President Bush offered no criticism Saturday of Pakistan's role in the still-unsuccessful hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, even though Pakistan's army is pulling back from the region where the terrorist mastermind is believed hiding."
The Pakistani ruler also came up short in his effort to tie-up the Palestine and Kashmir issues. Ahead of his meeting with Bush, Musharraf had been presenting them as twin issues that needed to be resolved to address growing Muslim disquiet across the world.