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Jewish World Review Feb. 23, 2001 / 30 Shevat, 5761

Dale McFeatters

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Consumer Reports

Long hours=great presidency? What our 'dim-bulb' of a president knows -- PRESIDENT REAGAN used to say he had heard the expression "a little hard work never killed anyone," but he figured, "Why take the chance?"

The new president of the United States and leader of the free world is heeding that advice. George W. Bush is content to leave the details and heavy lifting to someone else, and it's working for him. Whoever is running the country is doing a great job.

The Associated Press is keeping a daily diary of President Bush's first 100 days. The diary for Wednesday consists of two entries, a visit to a grade school and an interview about baseball. Whatever other ailments afflict our president, burn-out will not be one of them.

These observations are not meant critically. There appears to be no connection between long hours and a good presidency.

Reagan barely put in a four-day week. He knocked off Wednesday afternoons to go horseback riding, was wheels-up for Camp David Fridays at 3 and not back at the White House until Monday mornings. He broke that drudgery with frequent vacations at his California ranch. His presidency is considered a success.

President Nixon put in long hours drafting speeches and legislation. Much of what is considered the Great Society is actually his. He was run out of town. President Carter was an obsessive micro-manager and believed in hard work for its own sake. His is adjudged a failed presidency. Bill Clinton was a nonstop president, grabbing only a few hours of sleep a night, and, well, we know how that turned out.

President Bush will be issuing no midnight pardons. He's in bed by 10. His day is scheduled to allow for a daily workout and occasional nap. His public duties are over by early afternoon and at dusk, when Clinton was headed out on the town for two or three fund-raisers, Bush is headed upstairs to the family quarters.

Laura Bush takes a similarly relaxed view of her first lady duties. She spent the last two weeks at their Texas ranch redoing the kitchen.

Bush flew to Mexico Friday for a five-hour meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox and then rewarded himself for that burst of diplomacy with three nights at the ranch with its new kitchen.

Bush spent this past week touring grade schools in St. Louis, Columbus, Ohio, and Knoxville, Tenn., supposedly to sell his tax cut and education program. It is not clear exactly how the Kirkwood under-7 hockey league in St. Louis can help him do that, but the ankle-biters were happy to see him anyhow. He promised the grade-schoolers at the Townsend, Tenn., elementary school a $1.6 billion increase in education spending.

Typically, Bush's remarks were brief and detail-free. The Democrats snidely suggest that the lack of details is because Bush doesn't know them. Bush's communications director, Karen Hughes, responds with the refreshing observation that Americans have better things to do with their lives than listen to the president, a point not lost on anyone who has sat through a Clinton State of the Union address.

Bush's optimism and imperturbable good cheer allow him to breeze through mistakes that would tie a detail-crazed president into knots. In discussing, briefly, the air strike on Iraq, Bush made an odd gaffe: Saddam Hussein did not agree to a no-fly zone; the president's father, George senior, forced it on him. Details.

Bush's next exercise in diplomacy is a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, but to do it they'll have to go to Camp David. George and Laura are spending the weekend there.

Comment on Dale McFeatters' column by clicking here.


02/16/01: Just what the spin-doctor ordered? Bush can't even get ridiculed on TV
02/09/01: A heartbeat from presidency, and both feet in obscurity
02/02/01: AlGore is continuing his fall from grace
01/26/01: "Fifteen Minutes in December"

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