The nation is in despair over the war in Iraq and the toll it is taking on our troops and their families. But President Bush shows no outward sign of inner pain.
He is chipper in his public pronouncements. His weekly bike rides and daily workouts have put a perpetual spring in his step. He’s always ready with a wisecrack. He just hosted his daughter’s wedding at his multi-million dollar estate in Texas. He takes more vacations than any president in history. He has made clear that he doesn’t lie awake at nights.
And yet now it turns out that Bush has indeed made a personal sacrifice on account of the war. According to the president yesterday, his decision to stop playing golf five years ago wasn’t just an exercise in image control or a function of his bum knee — it was an act of solidarity with the families of the dead and wounded.
Here’s the relevant exchange in an interview Bush gave to Mike Allen of Politico:
Allen: “Mr. President, you haven’t been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?”
Bush: “Yes, it really is. I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”
Allen: “Mr. President, was there a particular moment or incident that brought you to that decision, or how did you come to that?”
Bush: “No, I remember when de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man’s life. And I was playing golf — I think I was in central Texas — and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it’s just not worth it anymore to do.”
This is the latest in a series of statements by Bush, the first lady and Vice President Cheney illustrating how far removed they are from the consequences of the decision to go to war — and stay at war.
But giving up golf?
Not only is it a hollow, trivial sacrifice at best, Bush’s story doesn’t hold water. While he dates his decision to abjure golf to Aug. 19, 2003 — the day a truck bomb in Baghdad killed U.N. special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and more than a dozen others — the Associated Press reported on Oct. 13, 2003, that he’d spent a “cool, breezy Columbus Day” playing “a round of golf with three long-time buddies.
Bush was also widely criticized in August 2002 when he decried terrorist bombings in Israel while golfing and then told reporters: ‘Now watch this drive.’
A History of Cluelessness
Said Cheney: “The President carries the biggest burden, obviously; he’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans. But we are fortunate to have the group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.”
Just a week before that, Tabassum Zakaria of Reuters quoted Bush as telling a group of U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan that he envied them: “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you . . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.”
Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote in the New York Times in December 2006: “The nation might despair, but not Mr. Bush; his presidential armor seemed firmly intact.”
She noted: “On weeknights, the Bushes watch football or baseball on television, ‘to try not to worry a little bit,’ Mrs. Bush told CBS.”
In June 2005, Bush told board members of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. “I’d say I’d spend most of my time worrying about right now people losing their life in Iraq. Both Americans and Iraqis.” But then he added: “You know, I don’t worry all that much, other than what I just described to you. I attribute that to . . . I’ve got peace of mind. A lot of it has to do with my particular faith, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of people pray for me and Laura . . . I’m sleeping pretty good. Seriously. I get asked that. There’s times when I hadn’t been. I’ve got peace of mind.”
In a January 2007 interview with PBS’s Jim Lehrer, Bush was asked about shared sacrifice and responded: “Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.”
At a June 14, 2007 White House briefing, then-press secretary Tony Snow insisted that Bush was on the front lines of the war “every day.”
And in April 2007, first lady Laura Bush asserted that ‘no one suffers more’ than the president and she do when watching television footage of the carnage in Iraq.