Bush suck-up alert!

Reporters take note of Bush's immaculate Iraqi bombing as he hits the road for his education and tax plans; Congress deserts the capital.

Published February 20, 2001 12:30PM (EST)

President Bush will take his campaign for a major tax cut and education reform plan on the road. He's spending Tuesday at school appearances in Ohio and Missouri and visiting with one of his "tax families," the poster children for his $1.6 trillion tax cut package.

Bush need not worry that Congress will make mischief in his absence. Neither chamber will be open for business until Feb. 26, after congressmen are finished with their weeklong break for Presidents Day.

When the Senate returns, it can look forward to the first legislation proposed by freshman Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. Returning to a favorite subject of her campaign, Clinton's bill focuses on reinvigorating the economy of upstate New York.

The economic state of Clinton's household has improved, thanks to the work of her husband, what's-his-face. Former President Clinton earned about $100,000 for a speech Monday at a conference held by software company Oracle Corp.

Clinton apparently stuck to his script, and didn't use the podium to further his defense of his last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Criticism of that move led Clinton to submit his arguments in favor of the pardon to the New York Times, which ran his Op-Ed on Sunday.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6:15 a.m. PST, Feb. 20, 2001]

From a Saturday New York Times news analysis, "Attack on Iraq," by reporters Frank Bruni and David E. Sanger:

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LOS RANCHOS, Mexico, Feb. 16 -- On the first four days of what President Bush designated "national security week," he promised troops in Georgia a pay raise, visited a NATO outpost to describe his long-range plans for the military and went to West Virginia to sympathize with the troubles facing reservists -- all visits intended to show how seriously he took and understood his role as commander in chief.

On the fifth day, he acted.

He consented to the Pentagon's request to bomb Iraq. Not hard enough to do much real damage ...

Whoops! Forgot about those two people who died and the 20 who were injured.

... or signal a major change in policy, but just hard enough to make the statement that Mr. Bush, not yet a month into his presidency, had arrived on the world stage; that despite his inexperience there, he was a player.

"Saddam Hussein has got to understand that we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm," Mr. Bush said here today.

For why this Bush quotation makes absolutely no sense, read this Washington Post article. Instead, an answer to a more crucial question: Was he wearing those naughty boots again?

He had met Mr. Fox on three previous occasions, and the comfort that Mr. Bush felt here, in the company of a man who has become a Mexican doppelganger of sorts, showed. He and Mr. Fox ditched their suit jackets and ties less than 90 minutes after Mr. Bush had arrived and stayed in that casual attire when they stepped to twin lecterns to talk to reporters this afternoon. Each man wore black cowboy boots that peeked out mischievously from beneath the bottoms of the pants.

OK, OK. But is he really a nice guy? I mean, really?

Mr. Bush chuckled at times, called out to reporters by the nicknames that he has given them and regularly shot smiles Mr. Fox's way. There was a subtle message, too -- that Mr. Bush was confident enough to take military action without actually being in the situation room.

Quick! Air kiss to Condi:

The president was not the only one flexing his muscle. [National security advisor Condoleezza] Rice, a former Russia specialist in the previous Bush administration, also ventured into new territory. And yet she, too, struck a demeanor and tone of nonchalance about the bombing, signaling that the administration was ready to deal forcefully with Iraq.

All right, enough about her; it's his show:

It was Mr. Bush who was going through a rite of passage, the culmination of a week that had amounted to a carefully orchestrated exercise of his claim to the role of a resolute, steady caretaker of national security.

Was he really able to relax so far, far away, in such a strange country?

He seemed to go almost out of his way today to demonstrate how utterly relaxed he felt in another country, dealing with a foreign leader on a brief visit that included time for scenic photo opportunities.

But wait, if this was just a "routine" airstrike, as Bush attests, can it also be a show of strength? Sure, why not:

"Ours is going to be an active foreign policy," Mr. Bush said. "It's going to be consistent and firm." Those were words of assurance, matched by actions far away that seemed to be saying the very same thing.

By Salon Staff

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