The following is an exchange at a public appearance by then-President George W. Bush on Feb. 4, 2005 in Omaha, NE:
WOMAN: I work three jobs, and I feel like I contribute.
BUSH: You work three jobs?
WOMAN: Three jobs. Yes.
BUSH: Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.
From what I remember, a lot of people at the time pointed to this as a demonstration of how out-of-touch Bush was with most of America. A rich daddy’s boy who’s never really worked a day in his life. The same kind of attacks Romney is getting now, with his $10,000 bets and that his speaking fees (worth over $400k) “aren’t very much”. And I agree, that the above obliviousness on Bush’s part to that woman’s toils speaks to a disconnect.
But I always saw something else in it, something that reinforced my belief that Bush never wanted to be president. He had no interest in it. His platform in 2000 was two things: tax cuts, and Clinton’s blowjob lost the office its integrity. He was famously incurious about any number of things, because he didn’t want to be there.
And so, when I hear his “uniquely American” comment regarding a poor woman who has to work three jobs to support herself, I immediately imagine a scene, in which his advisors are saying, “Mr President, we need to create more jobs. More jobs is a good thing.” And so Bush thinks, simply, “jobs = good things”. When he hears that one person has three of a “good thing”, it sounds fantastic to him. As if she had three puppies, or three gold bars. Sure, his disconnect from the lower classes reinforces this, but I believe the origin is his lack of desire to do anything, let alone lead the country for eight long years. Since he’s left office, he hasn’t done much. Carter worked for global peace and won a Nobel prize. Bush’s dad paired with Clinton to help the Katrina and tsunami victims. Clinton started his Clinton Global Initiative. Bush has been most visible sitting next to Nolan Ryan at the World Series.
This argument can spin off into multiple tangents: that his disinterest allowed others to effectively “rule” under him without any real oversight, that his complete lack of real policy convictions led to anemic job growth and the recession, etc… But I bring it up because I see some of it in the GOP nominating process today.
Why do these guys want to be president? I mentioned here earlier in the race that many of the GOP candidates for president have books for sale. Indeed, Gingrich is still doing book signings. Cain has no doubt secured himself much future employment as a talking head/pundit/speaker from his brief run, a la Palin. Add to that the disdain for government that has become such a hot GOP talking point. And to that, what are the two themes they all seem to be running on: tax cuts, and restore the integrity to the office (because Obama is an anti-American, Kenyan, socialist dictator).
At least when the whole Obama/Hillary fight was going on in 2008, it felt like they both wanted to be president. With this current GOP field, they want the power simply to have it. That they’re disconnected with the reality of most American’s current plight is partly because these rich guys have had it so good for so long, yes. But it’s also because they don’t have any real desire to govern - which requires knowledge of what needs governing; they just want the office.
The press doesn’t help, of course. They’re too busy covering the horse race (and lapping up all the advertising dollars these countless debates are creating) to actually look and see if any of the horses actually want to win this race, and what they’ll do if/when they do.
So when I hear Romney or Gingrich say something that’s ridiculously out-of-touch, what I think about first is that bored president of ours, who a few years back congratulated a woman in Omaha for having three jobs, because he didn’t care enough to understand what those numbers mean to actual people.