Singin' the Crawford blues
By Lisa Fabrizio
If it's August and the press is languishing in Crawford, Texas, it's time for the annual Bush vacation media bash. This means that unless there's a kidnapping or runaway bride story to hold the nation's interest, the media will instead launch into their favorite summer pastime; turning the president's visit home into a four-week sentence of derision and contempt.
The media seem not only offended that the president has the audacity to take a month off but that he persists in doing so in the middle of media nowhere. Unlike Bill Clinton who, until he left office, had no private residence to call home, President Bush dares prefer the dry dust of Texas to the haughty climes of chic, liberal playgrounds.
Beginning with his first year in office, his month-long trek to Crawford has occasioned wrath and scorn from the left and their media wing. Barely six months into his first term, USA Today was already chiding with the headline, “Poll Finds Most are Put Off by Bush Vacation." They immediately tagged him as another lazy cowboy:
Bush's advisers are sensitive to the perception that he doesn't work as hard as some of his predecessors. If Bush returns as scheduled on Labor Day, he'll tie a modern record for presidential absence from the White House — held by Richard Nixon at 30 days. Ronald Reagan took trips as long as 28 days.
Gratuitous though it was of them to include Nixon and Reagan, there was no mention of President Clinton's frequent soirees which, when covered by the press, often included posed photo-ops of romantic hand-holding or dreamy beach-dancing with his devoted bride and hob-nobbing with Hollywood celebrities. No such treatment is accorded Bush in Crawford as the only thing he brushes up against is brush.
A year later, USA Todayreturned to it's now-favorite subject, this time with, “Bush Vacation Plans Draw Heat from Democrat," reporting that, “A leading Democrat criticized President Bush on Tuesday for planning to spend a month at his Texas ranch while the stock market plunges and foreign affairs remain volatile."
In 2003 CBS's website registered with a little ditty called "Bush Vacation Is Over," where we learned that, “Vacation is over for President Bush, who is back at the White House with a long list of pressing issues awaiting his attention," which of course went on to discuss neglected budget deficits and volatile foreign affairs.
In the August run-up to the '04 election CBS, in an otherwise even-handed piece, nonetheless couldn't resist citing a DNC press release titled, “George W. Bush: Taking Vacation, Not Responsibility." They dutifully went on to note his total ranch days to date as 254, adding, “The Democratic National Committee loves to needle Mr. Bush about the time spent at his ranch."
And a rollicking 2004 piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate called, “The Out-of-Towner," posited that Bush's 2001 vacation may have been responsible for 9/11. Kaplan explained “how our government let disaster happen" and concluded, “The 9/11 commission has unveiled many critical problems in the FBI and the CIA. But the most critical problem may have been that the president was off duty."
This year's serving of sour ranch dressing takes on historic proportions as the Washington Post headline screams, "Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record." And, to clarify his position in the slacker hall of fame alongside you-know-who, the subtitle reads, “With Long Sojourn at Ranch, President on His Way to Surpassing Reagan's Total."
In a rare departure, the Post actually makes reference to Mr. Bush's predecessor: “Bill Clinton, lacking a home of his own, borrowed a house on Martha's Vineyard, except for two years when political adviser Dick Morris nudged him into going to Jackson, Wyoming, before his reelection because it polled better."
What the Post fails to mention however is President Clinton's own record-setting performance as the all time globe-trotting president, especially during the time of his impeachment. Clinton's total of foreign trips--business and pleasure--nearly eclipsed those of his three predecessors combined, at a cost of untold millions to the American people.
Typical of the media's treatment of Clinton was in 1998 when he jetted off to Africa with 1,302 of his closest friends. He was generally let off the hook for his role in the hideous genocide in Rwanda because, after all, he apologized for slavery, didn't he?
No; media mockery and derision are reserved for he who merely wishes to eschew Beltway bloodsuckers for boots and barbecue. With the Congress and most of DC scattered to the winds until fall, those unfortunate enough to be stuck covering the president will continue to bemoan their lot and bewail his sloth.
In truth, what they really despise is having to endure the 100 degree heat, suffer Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's ill-advised attempts at cowboy-wear and, worst of all, breathe the insufferable air of red-state America.
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