The president and his press secretary have suggested over the last few days that anyone who questions the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina is engaged in the "blame game," and that "now is not a time for politics." We thought that sounded just a little familiar when we heard it, and now we know why. In the presidency of George W. Bush, it turns out, it's pretty much never a "time for politics."
"Now is not the time for politics," the president declared on Feb. 14, 2001, just two months after the Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore and put him in the White House. Later that same month, the president said, "There's a time for politics, and that ended a while ago." On March 22, 2001, the president explained: "See, there's a time for politics, and there's a time for policy. And the way I view it is, once you get sworn in, that the politics is over."
In the aftermath of 9/11, the president said, "Now is not the time for politics." When the president was pushing one round of his tax cuts in December 2001, he declared: "Now is not the time for partisan politics." When reporters asked in January 2002 whether Enron might have benefited from the president's energy policies, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that others could "pursue politics" and "play the blame game," but the White House wouldn't. When Bush's treasury secretary discussed the struggling economy in April 2003, he said, "Now is not the time for partisan politics." When a reporter asked Bush about his plans for Iraq in December 2003, the president said: "There's going to be plenty of time for politics. And people can debate all they want. I'm going to do my job." When another reporter asked Bush about charges that he had advance warning of 9/11, he said: "There's time for politics. There's time for politics, and I -- it's an absurd insinuation."
At a press conference on July 30, 2003, the president said that "there is a time for politics, and that's going to be later on." And in the stump speech he gave well into 2004, Bush said there would be "plenty of time for politics" soon.
Now, perhaps there was a time for politics for a few short months in the fall of 2004, but that time is apparently over once again. As Congress debated CAFTA in July, Bush said it was time to "set aside partisan politics." And when one of the president's aides was asked later in July about the Republican Party's efforts to reach out to African-American voters, he said that there would be "another day to sort out the politics for that."