Bush's Vapid Reassurances

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, September 18, 2008; 12:25 PM

Briefly emerging from his near-invisibility during the nation's terrifying financial crisis, President Bush this morning offered brief, unsubstantive and unpersuasive assurances.

"The American people are concerned about the situation in our financial markets and our economy," he said, in a dazzling statement of the obvious. "And I share their concerns."

To emphasize just how concerned he is, Bush announced: "I've canceled my travel today to stay in Washington, where I will continue to closely monitor the situation in our financial markets and consult with my economic advisors." But in reality, canceling his travel was the only way to avoid a public-relations disaster: Up until late last night, Bush had been planning on headlining two big-money Republican fundraisers in Huntsville, Ala., and Palm Beach, Fl.

And here is what you might call the "money quote": "[M]y administration is focused on meeting these challenges. The American people can be sure we will continue to act to strengthen and stabilize our financial markets and improve investor confidence. "

Anbody reassured? I didn't think so.

His remarks, made just outside the Oval Office, lasted less than two minutes. Nothing he said changed the growing awareness in Washington that, despite being the nation's first MBA president, Bush has been and remains largely AWOL as the nation's wealth dwindles away.

And of course, he took no questions.

On Tuesday, Bush ignored a shouted question while touring hurricane damage in Galveston. "Mr. President, what are you going to do about AIG?" Tabassum Zakaria of Reuters yelled out. Bush shot back: "We're here talking about the people of Galveston, Texas. They've got a great mayor and they're working hard."

Yesterday, Bush ignored Associated Press reporter Deb Riechmann's request for comment during a photo op with Panama's President Martin Torrijos. The exchange was not reflected in the official transcript of his newsless event. But Cox News Service reporter Ken Herman captured it on video, and provided his own transcription:

"'With all due respect,' [Riechmann] said with all due respect, 'you haven't taken any questions since Aug. 6.'

"'I can't hear what you said,' Bush responded, with all due respect.

"'This way please, through the Rose Garden,' a pool wrangler said, with all due respect.

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