We've become so accustomed to the absence of our president that it comes as something of a shock when he actually appears. The nation has been on the verge of financial collapse for weeks and this guy has never once gone on television to reassure the country or outline a plan. Until this morning. With the grownups at his side -- Bernanke and Paulsen -- he toddled into the Rose Garden to say, among other things, that "This is a pivotal moment for the American economy" and "Now is the time to solve it."
Actually, the time to solve it would have been months ago. YEARS ago. You know, through regulation of the banking and finance industry. For this do-nothing president to come along now and call for stronger regulatory measures, after being a lifelong cheerleader for the Gordon Gekko (greed is good!) team, takes a galling combination of cynicism and cojones.
The blank look on his face and the flat affect of his voice as he read the statement others had written for him reminded me of the time, on 9-11, when Andrew Card interrupted the president's reading of "The Pet Goat" to schoolchildren to whisper in his ear that the country had just been attacked. As you may recall, our President did not leap into action. He sat there for what seemed an eternity before excusing himself to deal with the crisis.
The Pet Goat has morphed into Get Your Goat, the financial fairytale of a voracious beast on the loose. And our vacation-happy president has added one more disaster to his legacy of recklessness and cluelessness. I suppose it is almost quaint to raise the question of "Where has he been?" since the economic policy debate is now taking place between the two candidates who are actually vying for the chance to inherit this mess. But the guy is president, for goat's sake, until January. One expects him to put in a token appearance now and then in an effort to at least appear that he is on the job.
On the other hand, given the wreckage he is capable of when he IS on the job, perhaps we should hope he leaves bad enough alone. Perhaps Mr. Bush could just spend the rest of his term clearing brush on the ranch in Crawford. Goats are great at that.