George Bush’s Third Vanishing Act
Forget about Where’s Waldo. Where has President George W. Bush been?
Some, including The Politico’s Roger Simon, have been asking that question:
Where’s George? The president, I mean.
You remember him. Dubya. No. 43. Won a second term a few years ago. It was in all the papers.
But where has he been lately? Where has he been during America’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
Nowhere. AWOL. Every now and then, when the stock market takes yet another sickening plunge, a few words issue forth from the presidential lips. A very few words. Delivered with the greatest reluctance.
“I will continue to closely monitor the situation in our financial markets and consult with my economic advisers,” President Bush said Thursday in a two-minute address from the Rose Garden.
That’s right, two minutes. Delivered, according to the official White House transcript, from 10:15 a.m. EDT to 10:17 a.m. EDT. Maybe you missed it. Maybe you were at work. Maybe the president doesn’t care.
Maybe that’s the problem.
George W. Bush will continue to draw a paycheck until noon on Jan. 20, 2009. (If there is still any money left in the U.S. Treasury to pay him, that is.) But what has he been doing to earn his pay lately? Not calming fears among his fellow citizens about their life savings, that’s for sure.
This isn’t Bush’s first vanishing act — disappearing at the times of crisis when most modern Presidents would most appear on television or on the radio.
The first time was immediately after 9/11 when his plane was in the air. Reassurance came from then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who reminded voters about that virtually every hour during primary season. The second time was during Hurricane Katrina, when Bush was seen sparingly. His idea of crisis management seemed to be flying over the hurricane destruction and looking down. And, when he appeared, he gave quick reassurances and seemed to be more of an administration cheerleader.
Now, once again, you almost need to hire the FBI to find Bush during an economic crisis melt-down when the national discussion seems dominated by Presidential candidates Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, campaign surrogates from both sides, TV anchors, news-people, radio talk show hosts and cable talking and yelling heads.
From one perspective, Bush helps his party by keeping as low a profile as possible since McCain’s campaign now seems based on trying to separate himself just enough from Bush to inch back to the 2000 Maverick McCain while not losing Bush GOP party-base loyalists. Meanwhile, some Republican politicians don’t want to use the “R” word (which has become almost dirty) or, even worse, the “B” name (which has become almost dirtier for those seeking to get re-elected).
But from the standpoint of a key leadership quality Americans want in their President, the nation craves, and that the country’s stability requires in its President, George Bush is again earning a “D” or an “F” compared with many other modern Presidents.
The difference: this time symbolism and visibility matter. Whole fortunes, the country’s economy, the health of the world economy, and the lifestyle of Americans is at stake.
Historians will likely view Bush as a combination of Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, ranking him below Carter, a notch above Hoover (at this point) — and way below his father.
Cartoon by John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri
UPDATE: Related readings:
—Bloomberg: Bush Absent on Financial Crisis as Paulson Leads