Saturday, August 05, 2006

Crisis Doesn't Interrupt Bush Vacation

North Korea. Iran. Iraq. Lebanon. Israel. A drifting foreign policy. High gasoline prices.

None of the above seem sufficient reason in Bush's special universe for canceling a vaction. After all, August is Bush's off time (though Bush arranges executive off time during the rest of the year as well). Michael A. Fletcher of The Washington Post fills in the details and spin:
President Bush arrived here Thursday evening to begin a 10-day stretch at his Prairie Chapel ranch, his longest planned period away from Washington during this summer vacation season.

Bush's scheduled week and a half in Texas is a far cry from last year's working vacation, which was shaping up as the longest presidential retreat in more than three decades before it was rudely cut short by Hurricane Katrina after nearly a month.


This year, with the crisis in the Middle East at a fever pitch, the carnage in Iraq continuing and even the first hurricane of the year brewing in the Caribbean, the president's schedulers left less room for this year's vacation to cause such political damage.


Over the weekend, Bush is scheduled to meet at his ranch with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Later in the week, he is scheduled to travel to Wisconsin for the day to campaign for Republican congressional candidate John Gard before returning to Washington on Aug. 13.


President Lyndon B. Johnson spent 474 days at his Texas spread during his five-plus years as president, far surpassing the 370 days that Bush has spent in Texas since his election, according to U.S. News & World Report. White House aides are quick to point out that Bush remains in command even when he is far from the Oval Office. He continues to receive his normal security briefings and holds meeting with top aides and foreign leaders during his working vacations. The president also likes to use his down time to mountain-bike around his 1,500-acre ranch and to do chores such as clearing brush.

Comparing Bush's stay at Crawford to Lyndon B. Johnson's stay at his own ranch may not be the best idea. Johnson was another big-spending Texan who dragged us into an unpopular war. But, in Johnson's defense, he didn't work half a day and go off fishing; for one thing Johnson loved the details of politics and power too much to spend too much time away from the phone which is about all he needed to do business. From what most Americans can see, Bush's 370 vacation days (a full year!) really are vacation days most of the time. Even his trip to the G8 summit looked more like vacation time than work; the effect was certainly the same since nothing was accomplished.

I notice that despite the fact our foreign policy is failing, Bush wants points for meeting with Condi Rice who happens to be our Secretary of State; diplomacy requires a bit more than that. Bush should be meeting Rice every day or sending her off to deal with the crisis while he meets with other world leaders rather than spending August clearing brush or riding his mountain bike with no hands. At least Bush is consistent; he is keeping up with our Republican Congress which is the most do-nothing Congress in recent memory.


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