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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pauly says:

    Well yeah he got re-elected. Did you see his hair? To die for!

  2. Mark-NC says:

    Just for the record – Clinton DID get his hair cut for $200 – the delaying of flights was a planted myth – didn’t happen.

  3. Paul says:

    Mark– I love smashing myths more than anyone… But I find this REAL hard to believe.

    It was reported that night on all the major news channels. Clinton’s strongest suit was having TEAMS of people attack the press and get his side of the story out. I’ve never heard a single person say this.

    Further, snopes knows nothing about it. (which actually solves it in my mind, she would never miss a story this big.)

    I did a google search and found a few people claiming that but no documentation/ explanation how the myth got started.

    All in all you can find far more people believe we never went to the moon than believe this.

    lemme know


  4. melvin toast says:

    I don’t know if he does or not but based on his exclusion of reference to children events, I would suspect that Brett doesn’t have any.

    I’m not the kind of person who says that if you’re not ready to fight you shouldn’t be a proponent of war. But if you don’t have kids, you probably don’t understand how important family values are.

    If you don’t have kids, you might not know what I’m talking about. If you DO have kids, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

  5. Brett says:

    Don’t have kids, Melvin. But I do know people in the army and the national guard who do.

  6. Mark-NC says:


    You’re right – hard to find anything that doesn’t claim that Clinton stalled major airline traffic in the “liberal press”

    Here’s one from the Atlanta Journal:

    Remember Bill Clinton’s infamous haircut on board Air Force One?

    In 1993, according to front-page headlines and blaring broadcast reports, Clinton shut down Los Angeles International Airport to get a trendy haircut from a celebrity stylist. Those reports, which turned out to be dead wrong, took on a life of their own because of alleged inconvenience to the passengers left circling in frustration.

    Later news reports that put the episode in perspective — there were no delays of scheduled commercial flights — ended up on the back pages of newspapers or were mentioned briefly at the end of broadcast reports.

    And here at ABC

  7. Hey, why be President of the U.S.A. if you reschedule events around your priorities. I mean, if the “Buck Stops Here”, that means that you set your priorities and people can adhere to your schedule, not the other way around.

    While it was definitely a snafu in the scheduling office, I see no reason why the Leader of the Free World should have to adhere to some administrative screw-up. Plus, it’s not like NATO members have been exactly RESPONSIVE to U.S. requests, are looking to form their own little Chocolate Alliance, etc. Make ’em reschedule.

  8. Paul says:

    To be frank Mark- and Maybe I am overly skeptical but the sources you named don’t really tell the tale.

    The first is Robert B. Reich who never long for credibility to begin with and he was quite vague in his denial. The second was an opinion piece where she mentions it in passing but cites no evidence. (sorry I give her no more credibility than you)

    I’m not one to believe it just because I read it somewhere on the internet.

    If you google “clinton myth haircut lax” you only get 45 results. I skimmed each of them and all I found was liberals pundits CLAIMING it was a myth.

    *I found not a single mention of contemporaneous evidence.*

    Surely if this really was a myth many of the myth/urban legend sites (snopes) would have picked it up. Certainly many more people than 45 would be talking about.

    I think there is a myth here alright, and you are spreading it.


    BTW if you google “moon landing hoax” you get 17,000 hits.

    and if you google. “”Bush knew about 9/11″” (in quotes) you get almost 700 hits. So 45 people claiming something to be true does not impress me.

  9. markus says:

    thanks Paul, I really couldn’t find the LAX-haircut debunked anywhere in the mainstream.
    Which seems odd to me, guess I’ll assign it to the “most probably true” category until I’ve had the chance to ask some proponents of the theory that it is a hoax for evidence. Thanks for the pointer.

  10. Mark-NC says:


    My last post on this.

    Too many of the “Clinton scandals” were 2% true and 98% fabrication. This LAX thing is one of those. Basic checking will prove the same for Kathleen Wiley (Ray thought about prosecuting her for lying), Flowers (amazing the stories you can buy for $150k in hard cash), Filegate (gardners and kitchen staff and secretaries – Oh my!)

    Garbage like this LAX thing took wings because the press loves garbage that sells well – and Limbaugh, Hannity, and co. will back up anything of this sort.

    I did a one minute search at The LA Times and found this:

    There are sixteen references to check – here is the synopsis of the first.

    On July 1, there was a brief article inside The Times that says only one unscheduled air taxi flight was delayed by President Clinton’s haircut on May 18.

  11. Paul says:

    OK Mark-

    If you truly think that Clinton was an angel and did nothing wrong vis a vis Kathleen Wiley, Jennifer Flowers, Filegate et al…

    Than I can’t help you… You are delusional and ignore reality..

    Thank you for playing.