George W. Bush, man of action

For a man who has been slow to react to real emergencies, the president was a veritable Johnny-on-the-spot when it came time to sign the Schiavo bill.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 21, 2005 8:05PM (EST)

On Aug. 6, 2001, George W. Bush was given a Presidential Daily Brief that carried the headline: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." The president went fishing. On Sept. 11, 2001, Andy Card told Bush: "America is under attack." The president continued to listen to a second-grade class read "The Pet Goat." On Dec. 26, 2004, Bush learned that a massive tsunami had caused unimaginable devastation all around the Indian Ocean. The president waited three days before making any public comment.

But let the record show, when important issues demand presidential action, George W. Bush is a man of action. The House of Representatives passed emergency legislation in the Terri Schiavo case just after midnight this morning, and the president was on it immediately. Here's the blow-by-blow from Scott McClellan's gaggle today on Air Force One:

Question: Can you go over what went on last night, in terms of the President signing the bill and how it went down?

McClellan: Sure. I guess the bill -- the House passed it shortly after midnight, and then the President signed it at 1:11 a.m., in the morning. The Staff Secretary, Brett Kavanaugh, walked the legislation over to the residence for the President to sign. He came outside his bedroom and signed it in the residence.

Question: Had he been asleep?

McClellan: Yes, he was woken up after it was passed, when it was ready to be signed.

Question: I heard you describe it earlier, he came out of his bedroom and literally signed it standing up in the hall; is that how it went?

McClellan: That's correct, yes. He was just standing in the hall in the residence and signed the legislation then.

Question: Was he wearing . . . is it safe to assume he wasn't wearing a suit and tie at the time? (Laughter.)

McClellan: I'm not going into that much detail. Yes, he cleaned up, put on his suit -- (laughter).

Question: Was it just one signature, or was it the standard, lots of pens?

McClellan: I will double-check for you. I didn't check in that level of detail. I think it's just a signature. If something changes, I'll let you know, but I think it was just one signature.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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