The Shortest Summer Break Of Bush’s Presidency

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According to USA Today, this year, President Bush is cutting down his time to only 10 days. It is the shortest summer break of his presidency. In contrast with the backdrop of the Middle East in crisis, Baghdad beset by violence and Cuba in flux.


They say the president doesn’t want to be in Crawford at his ranch when the anniversary of Katrina comes up. I think that’s smart. Why allow yourself undeserved criticism from last year’s five-week vacation, when you can squeeze three or four times that amount into a mere ten days?


The president, of course, is just as effective in Crawford as Washington. There are those who claim he would be equally effective from Dick Cheney’s ‘undisclosed location,’ but they are the partisans, the cheap-shot specialists. The facts are, that every president travels with the full capabilities of the Oval Office and is equally ready to nuke the world, as well as touch base with any person on the planet (presuming they are not on vacation).


Expensive, but possible.


So this year, instead of a mere hurricane, Bush can be char-broiled for being away while Lebanon is in flames, Israel is up to its neck in alligators, Baghdad is coming apart to the extent that the commanding general admits there ‘may be a civil war going on’ and both Iran and North Korea play while the cat is away.


Who needs a hurricane?

This president, who named as the highlight of his presidency ‘a day fishing on his ranch lake,’ has gone fishing. He still hasn’t got a clue. It isn’t where he is during a crisis that matters, it’s the perception of his being involved with other things. Sleeping late while civilians die in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan is not an acceptable image. Playing with the dog and doing political fundraising while the American stew overflows the pot, is not hunky-dory.


The world didn’t really give a damn about Imelda Marcos, but they couldn’t possibly accept the image of a woman who owned 1,500 pairs of shoes while her country starved. The presidency, as Karl Rove should certainly be able to convince his captive client, is about image. That’s where John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan excelled; they were masters of imagery.


The Washington Post breathlessly quotes Tony Snow,


With a large number of GOP congressional seats in play and his party’s ability to set the agenda in Congress in jeopardy, Snow said, Bush wants to be sure to be on the road to help raise money and get his message out in hopes of improving his approval ratings, which have been abysmal for much of the past year.


Which is another image the world doesn’t need; an American president, with absolutely everything coming unraveled at his feet, out making campaign appearances and raising money. And why is that a priority? In order to keep control of a Congress that helped him make an absolute hash out of a large part of the Middle East.


Again, according to Snow,


Bush is taking a shorter break not because of criticism but because he has other things to do, including campaigning for Republican candidates in the fall elections, pushing for immigration reform and attending a family wedding in Kennebunkport, Maine. He plans to be in Louisiana and Mississippi on the Aug. 29 anniversary of Katrina and might return to Crawford for two days after that.


Other things to do.

Lebanon and Iraq are on the Texas-sized barbecue and, before George Bush flips them over to make sure they’re ‘done’ on both sides, he’s got a wedding to attend. Then, there’s the matter of pushing immigration (along with 6,000 troops on the border) and scamming a few bucks to the campaign coffers. These are all red-hot issues. Lebanon will hold (or fold), Baghdad can’t really get any worse in a couple weeks and the Iranians and North Koreans will just have to learn to understand Texas priorities.


According to Forbes,


White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush spent Friday clearing brush and riding his bike. He also had his regular briefings and took a call from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that lasted 15 minutes.


Thank God he was able to work it in.

As a political commentator, Jim Freeman’s op-ed pieces have appeared on the pages of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The Jon Stewart Daily Show, The New York Review and a number of magazines. His commentary is available at

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