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The Escape Artist

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President Bush said Tuesday that Congress is blocking his proposals to deal with high gas prices and dragging its feet on legislation to make more student loans available and ease the mortgage crunch. Video by AP

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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The incredible shrinking presidency of George Walker Bush hit a new milestone yesterday: The commander in chief turned to sorcery.

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"You know, if there was a magic wand to wave, I'd be waving it," Bush informed Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times in a Rose Garden news conference. She had asked him about the recession, which everybody seems to be acknowledging but Bush.

Further, the wizard of the West Wing said he would use his supernatural powers, if he had them, to conjure up lower gas prices. "I think that if there was a magic wand and say, 'Okay, drop price,' I'd do that," said the illusionist.

Abracadabra! Watch the president pull a rabbit out of a hat! See his low ratings vanish before your very eyes!

Well, not this time. "There is no magic wand to wave right now," Bush finally confessed to Stolberg.

But the president had something else up his sleeve. He used his appearance before the White House press corps to perform one of the oldest tricks in the book: blaming Congress. He faulted lawmakers 16 times in his opening statement alone.

"Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook," he began, and "they're looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action." Implicit in his formulation was that Americans no longer look to him for action.

"Congress has repeatedly blocked efforts," he protested. "Congress continues to block provisions. . . . Congress needs to clear away obstacles. . . . Congress is considering a massive, bloated farm bill. . . . Congress needs to do more. . . . I ask Congress to do its part."

The reporters in the audience didn't fall for the blame-Congress sleight-of-hand.

"Gas prices have gone up, foreclosures have gone up, there have been layoffs, news just this morning that consumer confidence is down yet again," recited the Associated Press's Jennifer Loven. "Isn't it time to think about doing more?"

"Were you premature in saying that the U.S. economy is not in a recession?" needled Jeremy Pelofsky of Reuters.

"Americans believe we are in a recession," pointed out American Urban Radio's April Ryan. "What will it take for you to say those words, that we are in a recession?"


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