President Bush: Unplugged
Chatterbox got to meet President Bush the other week (still waiting on the picture, darlin'!).
Jen at Patriotes got to attend a "silly luncheon" (as she put it) and listen in on Karl Rove give a talk. Check out her notes. What I like are the personal, intimate details you don't normally get in a formalized newspaper:
Bush bike rides 16.5 miles a day, at the SS training center.Last Friday, I listened to Michael Medved open his show in almost star-struck language in describing an "off-the-record" meeting of the President between him and a few other talk radio pundits, such as Laura Ingraham (who mentioned it on-air yesterday). (Not sure if Cal Thomas' article was based upon this meeting).
• He’s known Bush for 33 years.
• Joked that Barney, HAS NO PERSONALITY. He doesn’t like Barney while Bush describes the dog as the son he never had. Miss Besley is more well behaved. Barney doesn’t care about attention.
• He said that Truman once stated, “if you want friends in DC, get a dog.”
• Rove has two dogs.
• Bush is very well organized. He has 12 pens all pointing upside down and he gives them out to children. They are restocked every night.
• When Bush comes in, there is one document on his desk, Threat Matrix ... Rove has read it two times, said it’s “the stuff that nightmares are made out of.”
• Bush then meets with Chief of Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff etc.
• Secretaries of the Depts.
• Communicates via satellite phone w. Blair and commanders all over the world.
• Bush has another briefing all before 8:30 am
• Leaders from countries most people never heard of - call President Bush for help or for advice.
• Has a notebook that he takes with him when the work day is “done” - he reads it every night and knows it by heart almost in the morning. Challenges people to know stuff about it and asks very solid questions.
• Bush thinks about the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. It’s with him constantly.
• He never meets with families before an event BUT afterwards. So they aren’t on his schedule.
• They went to Ft. Campbell one time and met with 55 families for 5 hrs.
Sunday, September 17, 2006I read Ronald Kessler's "A Matter of Character" over a year ago; and in it, the author made mention of how the President gets a kick out of saying it "wrong".
The President, Face to Face: In Command, and Enjoying It
Posted by: Michael Medved at 8:26 PM
When you sit down with George W. Bush in private conversation, he comes across with only a casual resemblance to the famous figure we've all seen on TV.
I had the opportunity to reach that conclusion during a ninety minute "off the record" meeting in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon, September 15th. I'd met the President before (as he duly noted when I came through the door) but only in passing: at a large, formal dinner in Dallas in 1995 when he was Governor of Texas, and at a breakfast gathering of Seattle religious leaders during his first race for the Presidency in 2000.
This situation was different, in part because any individual becomes a different person after he takes over the most powerful job on earth and in part because the setting was unusually intimate. On Tuesday evening, I received an invitation to this Oval Office meeting with the President: Trey Bohn, a capable official from the White House press office, said that the chief executive wanted to communicate his ideas, his view of the world, on a personal basis to a handful of opinion leaders from the world of talk radio. All day Wednesday, we struggled to rearrange my schedule in order to facilitate the trip to Washington: when the Leader of the Free World extends an invitation, it's only appropriate to make every possible effort to accept. I took the red-eye on Thursday night (with my wife Diane) after my normal broadcast, and a screening of a grossly incompetent movie. The schedule allowed time to shower, shave and change in our hotel before walking the three blocks to the White House.
I arrived early, as the President's staff had requested, and sitting in a waiting room in the West Wing with some of the other meeting participants, we could hear snatches of the singularly feisty press conference the chief executive conducted (to my surprise) that morning, immediately before our appointment. The other invited guests for the Oval Office meeting were four fellow national talk show hosts, most of whom I knew reasonably well -- Sean Hannity, Mike Gallagher, Laura Ingraham, and Neal Boortz. While the President grabbed a quick lunch after his press conference (we were told), we sat around a long table in the Roosevelt Room, immediately adjacent to the Oval Office--- inspecting the portraits of Teddy Roosevelt on the wall, and the framed Congressional Medal of Honor he won for leading the charge up San Juan Hill.
After a few minutes, White House press secretary Tony Snow invited us into the Oval Office, where we each greeted the President and his chief-of-staff, Josh Bolten. As we sat down on the couches in front of the President's desk, and he took the chair facing the two couches, Mr. Bolten left the office and the President began to talk. Other than the five guests, the only other people in the room were White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and White House communications director Dan Bartlett.
The first thing I noticed when enterting the Oval Office, by the way, is the superb lighting: the room is bright yellow, and the light is notably brighter than in the other rooms of the executive mansion. Even on a cloudy, overcast morning, you feel as if you're in the midst of a desert in the noonday sun. In a sense, I suppose that brilliant glare reminds the president and his aides that you can't count on any dark corners, any lingering shadows, to obscure what occurs in the Oval Office.
In that unforgiving light, the President also looks larger, more formidable than he looks on television. He often appears to be a slight, unsassuming man, but he's 5'11", notably broad-shouldered, and with a habit of throwing those shoulders back with a West Texas swagger. Standing next to Al Gore (who's 6' 2") or John Kerry (who's 6' 4"), President Bush may look small by comparison, but when expansively welcoming guests into his office he's a commanding and room-filling presence. Part of that, of course, is the air of familiarity and power that surrounds him, but part of that warm and authoritative aura is, inevitably, just him.
I had expected that once we all sat down, the President might ask us some questions about the concerns and opinions of the radio audience, or else he might have opened himself to questions or comments we wanted to pose. In the event, he did neither: he simply began talking about the world situation, and never stopped. We had been scheduled for half an hour with Mr. Bush but he continued to speak-- with increasing energy and focus, as a matter of fact --for some ninety minutes before aides appeared to enforce the rigors of his schedule. Because the conversation was officially "off the record," I'm not supposed to quote specifics of the President's comments, but I can describe the subjects he covered and my general reaction to his conversation. He spoke primarily about the ongoing War on Terror -- showing unexpectedly detailed and meticulous knowledge of progress (or lack thereof) in many specific fronts around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bush's critics like to deride him as an empty-headed frat boy who knows nothing about other world leaders, but in his lengthy session with us the President told a series of amusing and very revealing stories about a half dozen heads of state. Without breaking the ground rules and providing specifics, I can say that the Leader of the Free World feels hearty affection for Junichiro Koizumi, the out-going Prime Minister of Japan, and he gave a riveting account about meeting the Prime Minister of Spain that would have made any American-- Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal -- feel proud and grateful that this generally under-rated Texan represented the United States of America a that particular moment. His comments about China, and the relationship between the Chinese economy and the nation's foreign posture, were particularly perceptive and persuasive, reflecting a much richer understanding of that confusing and powerful society than most reporters or pundits.
In the past, I've heard Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich show off their brilliant minds with long, discursive, deeply informed rambles that sketch out a free-flowing view of the state of the world. I've never heard anyone suggest that George W. Bush, whatever his virtues of character and resolution, could be capable of a similarly dazzling tour of the horizon-- but he provided precisely that sort of over-view this Friday, full of insight on societies, individuals, and ongoing struggles. The only significant interruption occured when we all heard a sudden, disturbing sound and looked to the glass doors behind the President's desk. It became apparent that some rudely insistent, or perhaps altogether unauthorized intruder, meant to disrupt our meeting, so the President summoned an aide from the next room who opened the door for Beazly, one of the White House Scots Terriers. A few minutes later, Barney, the more famous member of the Presidential canine corps, demanded entrance with similar scratching insistence. The little dog strode into the room with his own air of command and entitlement and looked around briefly as the President sang his praises to us, then scampered into an adjoining room for a more pressing engagement.
In addition to his exploration of world affairs, the president also spoke about gas prices in the US (lamenting the fact that he's much easier to blame when they go up than to credit when they go down), the ongoing religious revival, or awakening, and the upcoming Congressional elections (about which he maintains complete confidence, despite "stupid moves" by a few speicific Republican candidates which he discussed). Asked about the possibility of immigration reform before the election, he expressed passionate concern for establishing better security at the border, but indicated an unwillingness to change his "core principles." He made the important point that if he abandoned his well-known commitments on this or other domestic issues, the nation's enemies (and the rest of the world) would take away the belief that the President could be bullied, prodded, overwhelmed and initimidated -- harming the war effort for which young Americans risk their lives. He deeply believes in the importance of resolution, determination, and consistency in world affairs-- and emphasized several times that he refuses to govern according to trends, polls, or public opinion.
There's nothing grim about this commitment to remain unbending and unafraid in pursuit of his purposes. This President doesn't grit his teeth, or feel beleaguered or forlorn over low opinion ratings, or the angry demonstrators who wait outside the White House fence every day. When I visited the executive mansion, one protestor dressed as the grim reaper, in a black robe with a skeleton mask and scythe, carrying a sign thanking President Bush for the help. Others deployed larger-than-life puppets of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, dressed in striped prison suits, with manacles on their legs. I looked for some angry demonstators carrying signs equating the President to Hitler; they weren't there this trip, but I've seen them before, and so has Mr. Bush. In view of the poisonous nature of the opposition to his leadership, one might expect the President to sink into a self-pitying, paranoid funk, like so many of his predecessors (Wilson, Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Carter) who faced a hostile public during the last years or their terms.
This President, however, feels in no way cowed or discouraged or overwhemed, and that's the most encouraging lesson I took away from my hour-and-a-half in the Oval Office. He looks and sounds energized, and said several times how much he enjoys the Presidency, likes making decisions, and remembers what a privilege and an honor it is to be where he is. He even indicated a determination to go back to an effort to save Social Security after the election --- despite the crushing opposition the last time he tried to perform this public service. The President clearly loves his job and relishes the opportunities it affords him to change the country. He doesn't feel sorry for himself, and with his savvy resolution to make the most of the two years remaining to him after the mid-term elections, he doesn't want anybody else's pity.
Of course, that brightly lit Oval Office is hugely impressive but so, it must be said, is the impassioned individual who occupies it. If some of George Bush's most fervent detractors had been able to sit where I sat on Friday afternoon, they might not have bought the President's arguments, or his defense of his positions, but they couldn't dismiss the man's intellect, energy or information base ever again.
And one more thing: twice during his meandering conversation, the President deployed the word "nuclear." Both times, he pronounced it flawlessly --- as "new- clee-ar," not "nuke-cule-ar." Considering the huge press attention on the mis-pronounciation of this single word, nothing shocked me more about meeting the president than hearing him, in private conservation, avoid a mistake for which he's become celebrated in public.
If he can say "nu-clee-ar" in private, why does he still say, "nuke-cule-ar" when he speaks on camera? Could it be possible that there's some mischievous intent here-- that the President deliberately gives his own spin to the word just to provoke pompous pundits into paroxysms of supercilious rage? It seems like a far-fetched explanation, I'll admit, but after seeing the President's infectiously feisty mood this Friday, I wouldn't put it past him.
And yet, those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome continue to misunderestimate our President. As John Podhoretz concludes in Chapter 1 of "Bush Country",
Even though he knew how the word nuclear was normally pronounced, he insisted on pronouncing it NOO-kyoo-ler, a southern rendering which happened to be similar to Jimmy Carter's NOOK-ee-yuh.
"He loves to say Noo-kyoo-ler," Clay Johnson said. "I think he likes the way it sounds, or maybe he's trying to affirm his southern roots. We were going to have a meeting about nuclear energy one time. Before the meeting, I kidded him and said, "Just remember, it's NOO-klee-er. During the meeting, he said NOO-kyoo-ler. Andy Card looked at me and shrugged, meaning: "What can you do?"
In fact, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists the way Bush pronounced nuclear as an alternate, even including that version in an audio clip on its web site.
"Though disapproved of by many," the dictionary notes, such pronunciations "have been found in widespread use among educated speakers, including scientists, lawyers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least one U.S. president and one vice president. While most common in the U.S., these pronunciations have also been heard from British and Canadian speakers."1
Bush has described himself as "the master of low expectations." So, basically, he's come right out and said it: People who think he's a sucker are being played for suckers.2Listen to Michael Medved describe his meeting with the President here. Go! Now! And don't come back until after you've listened to it.
UPDATE 09/20/2006: Max Boot of the LA Times also reports on the Oval House meeting.
1 Kessler, Ronald. A Matter of Character Inside the White House of George W. Bush, Pg 126
2Podhoretz, John. Bush Country How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane, Pg 26
Labels: George Bush