THE BLOG
06/14/2006 02:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bush's Banter Goes Too Far: Taunting a Blind Man

Let me first say that Bush may not have known he was talking to a legally blind reporter when he engaged in this exchange:

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?

Q I can take them off.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.

Q All right, I'll keep it, then.

THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there's no sun. (Laughter.)

Q I guess it depends on your perspective. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Touche. (Laughter.)

As Think Progress notes, "[Peter] Wallsten is legally blind. Wallsten tells us he has a rare genetic disorder called Stargardt's Disease. The disease is a form of macular degeneration that can be slowed "by wearing UV-protective sunglasses and avoiding exposure to bright light."

The point of this post is not that Bush intentionally taunted a blind man, but that his insistence on clowning with the press is undignified and highly inappropriate.

I blogged about it recently in a post about Stephen Colbert: "Bush's clownish banter with reporters - which is on constant display during press conferences - stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?"

UPDATE: Caught this at HfA:

Bush to a man in a wheelchair: "You look mighty comfortable" ... to which Digby responds, "There's an interesting simple psychology involved in such things. If someone can coerce those in a group to help him attack a single member they become his accomplices. For instance, getting everybody in the press corps to laugh at a reporter's baldness makes those reporters part of the president's gang. And, of course, it intimidates them. If they stray, they too will be subject to that kind of public humiliation. It's the evil fratboy theory of social relations, very primitive stuff. That Bush may be reduced to plying this unconsciously with senior citizens in wheelchairs is not surprising, given his poll numbers."

UPDATE 2: Bush apologizes. I'll reiterate my point: it's not this particular case - where Bush now admits he screwed up - but Bush's juvenile joshing that is so unbecoming of a U.S. president at a time of war.

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