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Bush's YouTube Moment

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, July 23, 2008; 12:56 PM

At his press conference two weeks ago, President Bush stiffly acknowledged that these were difficult times for many American families, while strenuously insisting that the economy is "basically sound."

But in private -- as captured on a video surreptitiously shot at a closed-door fundraiser last week -- a much more relaxed-looking president can be seen joking about the housing crisis and comparing Wall Street to an alcoholic.

The video was apparently shot on a cell phone, despite Bush's request to turn off all recording devices, and was obtained by Houston television reporter Miya Shay.

"It is uncertain, there's no question about it," Bush says at the beginning of the clip, apparently responding to a question about the economy. "Wall Street got drunk -- that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up, and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.

"And then we got a housing issue. Not in Houston -- and evidently not in Dallas -- because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today." Much laughter ensues among the well-heeled GOP donors, gathered in the $5 million home of a former energy company executive.

Someone yells out a question about Crawford and Bush replies: "I like Crawford. Unfortunately after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I'm now no longer the decision maker. She'll be deciding, thanks for the suggestion. I suggest you don't yell it out when she's here. Later, I was telling her 'Hey honey, we've been on government pay now for 14 years, so go slow!'

"It's uh -- caused me to lose my train of thought."

Julie Mason and Alan Bernstein write in the Houston Chronicle: "The president's blunt remarks were a sharp departure from the more measured tones he uses publicly to discuss the economy and national housing market collapse."

Matt Jaffe blogs for ABC News: "Bush's remarks are a departure from the more conservative tone he usually takes when speaking to the press. Earlier last week, in fact, the president preached optimism about the economy in a nationally-televised news conference. . . .

"He acknowledged that the economy was experiencing 'a tough time', but did not compare the current situation to a hangover."

Stephanie Kirchgaessner writes in the Financial Times: "Mr Bush has rarely been caught on video making such frank remarks before a friendly audience about a politically sensitive topic, proving that even the carefully guarded White House is susceptible to being caught off guard in the new era of the endless internet campaign."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "The sentiments were no different from those Mr. Bush has voiced in public, said Tony Fratto, the deputy White House press secretary.


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