Brett Marston is incensed by this WaPo report from Friday which I totally missed (which is apparently what happens when the hotel’s free copy of USA Today is all the news you get for four days–and the Friday paper has to last for three of them).
In a nutshell, Bush let his team set up a NATO summit and some significant follow-up events and then, at the 11th hour, realized that his girls were graduating from Yale and UT-Austin and he’d either need to miss part of the meeting or else everyone would have to reshuffle. Says Brett,
OK, so part of the reason that I’m upset is that I can start ticking off the important family events I’ve missed in the past few months because of work obligations, such as an art opening that my sister had in Boston and my mom’s graduation from Divinity School. I suppose I could have asked my class to reschedule and quashed my own sense that I would be cheating the good taxpayers of New York (in addition to my students) who are paying me to teach the next generation whatever it is that I have to teach. But I was always taught that sometimes your familial obligations have to give way to broader concerns, especially when you have been charged with doing a job well.
This sense of priorities on the part of Bush should destroy any pretentions that this President has to being a “multilateral” actor. “I’m sorry, ye other leaders of the world’s most important military alliance: I’ve got to show my daughters that I love them. Reschedule or I can’t be at this historic meeting in Turkey. That’s the way this White House operates: you’re on my personal schedule, or you can forget it.”
And even if Bush doesn’t want to present himself as concerned first with his family and then with the rest of the world, people in the rest of the world are going to read it this way. Here are some of the German-language headlines: “Family takes priority over world politics” (tagesschau), “NATO summit is postponed because of Bush’s daughters” (Kleine Zeitung, Austria), “Private life more important than NATO” (Focus, Germany).
We should call this what it is, namely, imperial arrogance and a shirking of official duties for private reasons. Grounds enough for calling into question President Bush’s leadership, I’d say.
Remember way back in the early days of the Clinton administration when the President caused flights at LAX to be delayed as President Clinton got an expensive haircut while Air Force One sat on the tarmac? At least that was only LAX. Here we’re talking about what are arguably our most important allies. [Many links in original]
What strikes me as problematic is that Bush and/or his planners didn’t have the events on their calendars–it’s not like they just pull a graduation date out of the air at the last minute–when they were planning the NATO summit.
The girls are going to graduate college once and he’s their dad. It’s not like POTUS can’t talk to the folks at NATO whenever he pleases. Sure, people miss family stuff for work all the time and Dad’s work is pretty important in this case. But, frankly, there’s really not that much done at the head of state level at these things, anyway.
I bet Bush 41 would tell him to go watch the girls graduate. Twenty years from now, or, hell, a couple weeks from now, he’ll hardly give the NATO meeting another thought. He’d regret blowing the girls off the rest of his life.
Clinton keeping an entire major airport waiting while he got his hair cut by his stylist struck a raw nerve with people because he caused major inconvenience for a lot of people to gain a very minor convenience for himself. Here, Bush is upsetting some plans for a pretty good cause; the fault is one of utter carelessness in scheduling.
That all said, I’m not sure what the financial cost of this snafu will be. Presidential trips are ridiculously expensive; presumably a major reshuffling will add to that cost. Dubya’s got some ‘xplaining to do here. But most Americans will likely admire him for making the choice he’s making given the fix he got himself into. And, hell, Clinton managed to survive the haircut incident and a whole lot more. Indeed, he won re-election fairly handily and left office with fairly high approval ratings.