And then we got a housing issue, not in Houston – evidently not in Dallas, because Laura’s over there trying to buy a house today. I like Crawford. Unfortunately, after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I am no longer the decision-maker. She’ll be deciding.
Drying out is a subject on which President George Bush has personal insights. And when he used the metaphor of a drunk sobering up after a bender to describe America’s economic travails, people sat up and listened.
Well, not so much listened as pointed and guffawed.
When speaking in public, the President, a Harvard MBA, usually prefers euphemisms to refer to the millions of people who are hurting and losing their homes. “Challenges in the housing and financial markets,” is a favourite one. But speaking to a closed-door Republican fund-raiser in Houston last week his explanation was much blunter.
“There’s no question about it,” Mr Bush said. “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.”
Fancy financial instruments? Yeah, the money spent for that MBA sure paid off, huh?
Discredited as President and so unpopular that even John McCain shuns him, Mr Bush still has the Midas touch when it comes to fundraising. Provided the doors are closed to the media, he is the most favoured guest of Republican politicians trying to stump up cash.
The video also contained a scoop that the Bushes will not be living full time at the President’s beloved Crawford ranch, and are busy shopping for a house in Dallas. They may even settle in the wealthy suburb of South Fork, the setting for Dallas, the 1970s television hit. It should be a buyers’ market, but the President complained that that was not the case. “And then we got a housing issue,” he said, “not in Houston – evidently not in Dallas, because Laura’s over there trying to buy a house today. I like Crawford. Unfortunately, after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I am no longer the decision-maker. She’ll be deciding.” Mr Bush said he had offered his wife some guidance: “I said: ‘Honey, we’ve been on government pay now for 14 years. Go slow.’ “
But it was the comments about Wall Street’s bender that caught people’s attention. Tony Fratto, the deputy White House press secretary, played it straight. “The President has made this point before,” he said. “What the President is referring to is the fact that the markets were using very complex financial instruments that had grown up over the years, and when confronted with the shock of this housing downturn, they did not fully understand what the consequences were going to be.”
I like Tabatha Southey’s take on it over at Canada’s Globe and Mail. You really should read the entire thing, kids. It’s very funny. Here are some snippets:
“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.” – George. W. Bush, in a videotaped speech at a recent Republican fundraiser
I’m not sure what President Bush intended to say in that speech, but sadly I’m left haunted by the image of drunken stockbrokers attempting to have sex with high-end calculators from Texas Instruments.
And if Bush’s right, if that’s what Wall Street’s been up to, “doing” instruments, then certainly some moderating needs to be done there, just to preserve Wall Street’s dignity. Wall Street will need its dignity when it’s destitute and all those fancy financial instruments say, “You can’t do me any more, Wall Street,” before they retreat back into their black plastic cases.
It’s ironic that a man like Mr. Bush who’s placed so many of his own citizens under surveillance, should ask that the TV cameras be turned off while he’s speaking. It’s alarming that he apparently believed that they would be. Certainly the request proves, however improbable, just how scripted his incoherent Drunk Wall Street bit was.
It’s not the drinking metaphor that makes the video memorable. No one expects Bush to compare Wall Street to a summer’s day or suggest that it “should have been a pair of ragged claws.” Nor is it his malapropism – they’re routine by now.
It’s the “no camera” request, begged before he indulges in his naughty frat-boy banter, that is notable, almost disturbing.
What we witness in the tape is Mr. Bush’s reverse Norma Desmond moment – the Sunset Boulevard character wants only to be filmed; the president fantasizes that he’s off-camera.
Cameras – ever present, like a conscience – bring accountability. But without them, performing before his last-holdout supporters, Mr. Bush can pretend that he is liked.
On the tape, Mr. Bush continues: “And now we have a housing issue,” he admits, but it’s a setup for another joke – “not in Houston, and evidently not in Dallas – because Laura’s there trying to buy a house.”
Apparently, while a quarter of the listings for houses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are for foreclosed properties, no one’s yet foreclosed on the house of Laura’s dreams.
Tip of the hat to the handsome and talented Neon Vincent, who writes the bestest science news posts there are! Thanks for the idea!