In the Loop: Bush makes a debate comeback

Al Kamen
Columnist October 17, 2012

Former president George W. Bush finally broke through the bipartisan cone of silence against the mere mention of his name in Tuesday’s second presidential debate.

Bush, who some may recall was president from 2001 to 2009, had been He Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered for months, languishing in obscurity. He was invisible during the GOP primaries and through the Republican convention, which he didn’t attend (was there a scheduling conflict?).

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has even sharply criticized the Bush administration’s spending. And when Bush visited Romney’s Boston headquarters — Romney was in Nevada — the campaign initially denied that he had been there.

During the first debate, Bush’s name came up once. (Some observers assumed that was only because President Obama essentially had forgotten to show up for that debate.) In contrast, former president Ronald Reagan, who left office 24 years ago, came up three times.

This go-round, the candidates invoked the 43rd prez 12 times, by our quick count.

The bipartisan pact of not mentioning old whatshisname would have remained intact were it not for audience member Susan Katz, who actually remembered Bush and forced Romney to contrast his views with those of the former president.

Romney, who has shown extraordinary skill in pivoting from an “extreme conservative” in the primaries to the proud, moderate former governor of Massachusetts, also had momentarily forgotten Bush 43.

But he did come up with a response, saying, “President Bush and I are — are different people, and these are different times,” and noting that Bush didn’t “crack down on China” and didn’t do much for small business.

Obama shockingly violated the “no-mention” agreement to paint Romney as more “extreme” than Bush on immigration, Planned Parenthood and Medicare as a voucher program.

Unclear whether Bush can sustain his comeback into the third debate.

Don’t forget your statuette

There were cheers all around in June when the Pentagon Channel, the Defense Department’s TV and streaming video channel, won a whopping five Emmys.

The creative team behind the awards included a dozen talented folks from the Towne Group, an area media and management company.

But the exhilaration didn’t last long. On Sept. 30, when the company’s Pentagon contract expired, seven of the 12 consultants who were involved in the Emmy-winning work were let go, part of the Defense Department’s belt-tightening as a result of budget cuts in recent years.

The Pentagon Channel was hit hard in the cuts. Some 22 contractors of the 51 working in the media affairs shop were let go.

A Pentagon spokesman said most of the seven contractors who received the Emmys “have landed on their feet.” Well, they are, by definition, a talented group, so maybe they’d fare better than most.

But when the fiscal cliff arrives, the waves of laid-off people may not do so well.

It beats ‘duck and cover’

Those who remember Jerry Lee Lewis’s iconic hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” — which he recorded only 55 years ago — might have been intrigued by an invitation we got the other day to join the “Great SouthEast ShakeOut” on Thursday.

Alas, rock’s legendary bad boy, a.k.a. “The Killer,” won’t be there. And the event’s got nothing to do with music.

Turns out the “ShakeOut” is a FEMA earthquake drill, trying to teach people in the District, Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia what to do in the event of an earthquake.

They want people to “practice the recommended action during an earthquake,” called the “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” This is not a dance routine but shorthand for “Drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to it until the shaking stops.”

Ought to work pretty well — unless the whole building you’re in collapses. Still, folks in this area got pretty earthquake-sensitive after that magnitude 5.8 quake a year ago in August that was centered in Mineral, Va.

FEMA says it’s hoping that more than 1 million people in this region will participate in the drill, which begins at 10:18 a.m.

There’s a Web site: www.shakeout.org.

More than Big Bird’s goose is cooked

Amid all the binder babble and candidates comparing the size of their pensions, here’s a fact-check from Tuesday night’s debate that flew a bit under the radar: Romney claimed that the feds sought criminal charges over a paltry (poultry?) few migratory birds that died in an oil field. But, as our colleague Juliet Eilperin astutely noted, the former Massachusetts governor low-balled the number of birds.

“What was the cost, 20 or 25 birds were killed?”Romney asked, insinuating that losing a couple of feathered friends was a small price to pay for obtaining the precious black gold.

Actually, the number of dead birds was 28, Eilperin reports. Now, that might seem like a small discrepancy. But the birds of the world might beg to differ.

And after Romney singled out Big Bird in the first presidential debate, we’re starting to wonder if he has an avian aversion.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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