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Thursday, May 12, 2005 04:32 am

common sense 5-12-05


President George W. Bush’s handlers keep him in a happy little bubble, comfortably isolated from something kind of important for a president: reality.

Bush says that he doesn’t read newspapers, instead trusting his aides to give him any “news” he needs to know. And when he goes on the road for one of his “town meetings,” he doesn’t really meet the town. Instead, the audience is carefully selected by Republican political operatives to make certain that their man only hears praise from folks who agree with him — potential critics are sought out in advance and removed from these “public” meetings.

Basically, Bush hears only from the three pillars of his political base: corporate executives, Republican Party faithful, and the extreme Christian right wing. This leaves him clueless about what the workaday majority of Americans are experiencing and thinking, which helps explain why he is pushing policies so outside the American mainstream.

For example, Bush keeps insisting that the economy is booming, and his top economic official, Treasury Secretary John Snow, has even exclaimed that the economy is in a “sweet spot.” Well, yes, if you’re a CEO — corporate profits are zooming, at a rate exceeded only by that of CEO pay. But the reality for working families is that their wages aren’t even keeping up with the cost of living and their health care is being cut (assuming that they have any coverage at all). Only a third of Americans think the economy is improving — and they’re the only ones Bush ever talks to.

It can be politically dicey for a president to be so out of touch with ordinary Americans. Indeed, while Bush hides in his bubble, he has become the least popular second-term president on record.

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