Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Greg Mitchell Headshot

When Bush Got 'Drunk' -- As Meltdown Approached

Posted: Updated:
Print

It's fun, sad and fascinating to look back one year at one of the few YouTube highlights or lowlights of the George W. Bush presidency. In his fumbling way, was he actually trying to warn us -- despite himself -- about a coming disaster?

One year ago, after it first gained wide attention here at HuffPost, media commentators weighed in on the brief video captured (probably via cell phone) at a private fundraiser in which President Bush joked about Wall Street getting "drunk" with profits. Then he made light of the U.S. housing crisis in the context of his wife's home-hunting. Dan Froomkin, then at the Washington Post, called it Bush's "YouTube Moment," which makes you marvel -- yes, he has had relatively few of them, at least of the "whoops, that was private" variety.

"There's no question about it. 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."

Amazingly, earlier that same day at another fundraiser in Tucson, Bush, according to Daniel Scarpinato of the Arizona Daily Star , had fretted about this eventuality. "So sensitive were Republicans about information getting out about the goings-on at the Tucson fundraiser . . . even W. himself," he wrote, "made sure to ask the 400 or so people at the event to turn off any recording devices. 'I don't know a lot about technology,' the president said, according to one insider, 'but I do know about YouTube.'"

At least he didn't say "the YouTube" or "the Tubes."

Here is some other commentary. Read it knowing that the Wall Street collapse came just two months later:

--David Gaffen at the Wall Street Journal's Marketbeat blog, headlined his post "Happy Hour in Washington," and noted: "What we are sure of is this: if Wall Street was drunk, who was the bartender handing out free drinks? Our thoughts at right." That image shows Alan Greenspan and President Bush.

--Floyd Norris of the New York Times targeted the same pair on his blog: "A Federal Reserve chairman once said that the Fed's job was to take away the punch bowl when the party was getting good. Unfortunately, the Greenspan Fed and the Bush administration did all they could to keep the punch bowl full, fighting off efforts to regulate 'fancy financial instruments' or restrain the excessive leverage that will now lead to massive government bailouts to avert a financial disaster."

Julie Mason and Alan Bernstein in the Houston Chronicle, the first newspaper site to run the video after the local ABC affiliate had beat them to it: "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....The jocular tone Bush used to describe a serious subject also underscores the pitfalls of being candid in an age of tiny camera phones. News reporters were prohibited from the Olson event in River Oaks last Friday."

Stephanie Kirchgaessner 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."

Greg Mitchell's latest book is "Why Obama Won." He is editor of Editor & Publisher.