A presidential appearance these days has all the markings of a nice church wedding. Guests are expected to be in place well beforehand — indeed if they don’t arrive by a cutoff time they don’t get in — after which they sit quietly and chat, creating a quiet din that suddenly goes silent in premature anticipation that he’s about to show. After a few such rounds, an officiant does finally appear at the podium, and without further adieu he introduces the President of the United States as the audience stands in welcome. It’s the next best thing to watching a bride walk down the aisle. Easier on the neck, too.
Late this morning the Manhattan Institute hosted our president at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Washington. Mr. Bush was in fine form, particularly since key Congressional figures in the current campaign to pass a new line item veto bill, including Sen. John McCain, were also in attendance. The president talked the talk in defense of the bill (his comments are already up on the Manhattan Institute’s website); his delivery was fluid, direct, spirited and friendly, a defense of his economic policy in general as much as an endorsement of the new line item veto bill in particular. So long as he was making the case for the benefits of tax cuts he was convincing. It was only when he played up his commitment to fiscal restraint and responsibility that some eyes had to roll.
Is the line item business anything more than an effort to find political cover from the heedless spending excesses of the last five plus years?
But given the friendly, special atmosphere at this morning’s ritual, capped by the president’s spending flesh and camera time with many of the several hundred who attended, no one was in the mood to entertain such unpleasant thoughts.