America: The Lasting Image of Bush during the Summer Has Been That of an Uncaring President Who Has Been Idly Biking-I Can't See Him Fiddling, Somehow-While Iraq Burns

By Stephen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), September 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

America: The Lasting Image of Bush during the Summer Has Been That of an Uncaring President Who Has Been Idly Biking-I Can't See Him Fiddling, Somehow-While Iraq Burns


Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


First of it all, it is not a "ranch", any more than the Kennedy family houses in Hyannis Port or Palm Beach were ever "compounds". Yet we are always being told that President Bush is spending time at his "Texas ranch"--a characteristically self-deluding media myth, given that his two Scottish terriers comprise just about the only livestock at his thoroughly comfortable and modern home there. The White House claims that there are also "four or five" cattle at Crawford that were given to Bush as ceremonial gifts, though I can find nobody who has ever actually seen them.

Now that Washington is going back to work and Bush was forced by Hurricane Katrina to head back early to the White House--the official end of summer came a week later than in England--I suspect that we will look back on these past two months as the apotheosis of the Bush presidency. Bush has spent 339 days relaxing in Texas since becoming president in 2001, and it has been a running silly-season story this year that he has been riding his $3,000 Trek Fuel mountain bike or reading books such as Edvard Radzinsky's Alexander II: the last great tsar (very likely, that one).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But this summer the name of Cindy Sheehan, 48, has also kept dogging Bush. The world now knows that her son Casey was killed at the age of 24 in Iraq last year--and that Bush refused to meet her last month when she set up camp outside his "ranch". For Bush, it was a silly-season story that just would not go away, partly because Sheehan is not a typical bereaved soldier's mother but a middle-class woman who is being advised by a big-time advertising agency called Fenton Communications. The pliant media have taken notice of her, and the story of her personal tragedy has entered the consciousness of the nation and become a symbolic watershed for it.

The result is that the lasting image of Bush during the summer, fairly or unfairly, has been that of a personally uncaring president who has been idly biking--I can't see him fiddling, somehow--while Iraq burns. A poll out last Tuesday showed that a majority of Americans support Sheehan, despite attempts by the right-wing media to trash her character; that they disapprove of the Iraq adventure by 58 to 37 per cent; and that Bush's personal approval ratings have fallen to their lowest ever and are now at just 36 per cent. One right-wing friend has even confided to me that he believes Bush will go down in history as a Warren Harding, widely believed to have been the worst US president ever. …

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