January 1, 2006


Down on the Ranch, President Wages War on the Underbrush: Bush Conscripts Aides in Tireless Pursuit of Clearing Ground (Lisa Rein, December 31, 2005, Washington Post)

On most of the 365 days he has enjoyed at his secluded ranch here, President Bush's idea of paradise is to hop in his white Ford pickup truck in jeans and work boots, drive to a stand of cedars, and whack the trees to the ground.

If the soil is moist enough, he will light a match and burn the wood. If it is parched, as it is across Texas now, the wood will sit in piles scattered over the 1,600-acre spread until it is safe for a ranch hand to torch -- or until the president can come home and do the honors himself.

Sometimes this activity is the only official news to come out of what aides call the Western White House. For five straight days since Monday, when Bush retreated to the ranch for his Christmas sojourn, a spokesman has announced that the president, in between intelligence briefings, calls to advisers and bicycling, has spent much of his day clearing brush.

This might strike many Washingtonians as a curious pastime. It does burn a lot of calories. But brush clearing is dusty, it is exhausting (the president goes at it in 100 degree-plus heat), and it is earsplitting, requiring earplugs to dull the chain saw's buzz.

For Bush, who is known to spend early-morning hours hacking at unwanted mesquite, cocklebur weeds, hanging limbs and underbrush only to go back for more after lunch, it borders on obsession. [...]

Ronald Reagan chopped wood and rode horses, Bush's father sailed off the shore of Kennebunkport, Maine, and Bill Clinton jogged. For George W. Bush, clearing brush projects the image of a cowboy president, a tough rancher fighting the elements to survive. That is, of course, the White House's projection; the president's critics take a dimmer view. [...]

But some of Bush's neighbors in the Crawford area said they understand his pleasure -- even if he doesn't have to do it. "We do it because we have to," said Zach Arias, who with his wife raises cows on 400 acres about 20 miles from town. "But afterwards, you kind of go, 'Wow. I feel good about what I did today.' "

No wonder it mystifies the press.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2006 4:08 PM

Think he ever nicknames ("Reid," "Kennedy," etc.) any of that brush before he hacks it down?

Posted by: Rick T. at January 1, 2006 6:21 PM

You'd think getting back to nature would be a GOOD thing to these Lefties - but we know their real objectives.

Posted by: obc at January 1, 2006 6:45 PM

Chancy gardening.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 1, 2006 7:44 PM

Please, the only time President Bush actually "clears brush" is when there is a TV camera to show it. Other than that, he never leaves his house.

Posted by: Bartelson at January 1, 2006 8:03 PM

That's what they always claimed about Reagan too--both men so transparent the elites can't possibly understand them.

Posted by: oj at January 1, 2006 8:35 PM

It's very understandable; it's public relations at it's most insinuous. The press act like their mystified, just like you would expect the PR department of the two parties to do.

Posted by: Grog at January 1, 2006 9:47 PM

Guys, he gets terrible press for taking all those vacations, and the press, perfectly rationally, hates to be dragged to west Texas. When he's not clearing brush, he's riding his bike. Just be satisfied that W is a dimwitted jock and try not to be cynical about the way he spends every last minute.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 1, 2006 10:52 PM

grog, what does "insinuous" mean ? the idiots at websters don't have that one listed.

Posted by: toe at January 2, 2006 12:22 AM

When my parents moved to TX, they spent a couple weeks clearing out the wooded area behind their house. It looked like pretty miserable work to me. Sure, they turned it from a clogged mess to a place where they can walk the dog, but still... I don't understand the compulsion.

Posted by: RC at January 2, 2006 12:56 AM

GW is a spoiled brat, not a jock, which is the image that his handlers work the MSM to maintain. I'm not saying that clearing brush with a chainsaw is not a good way to get outside, break a sweat, and sublimate aggressive energy through a normal, healthy, and functional laboring. But have you guys seen the way Bush struts around as if he's a cowboy?
The only thing Bush has going for him is his image. I don't think he's stupid, but I do think he's told to act like he is. Bush's only job is to function as a carefully crafted image (which is not unique to his presidency) that the MSM is fully complicit in helping to portray.

Toe: Just what are you insinuating? Just kidding, I met insidious, but I think I was looking for another word. Do you know what insidious means?

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 2:44 AM

Bush struts around like he's the most powerful person in the world - and guess what ?

But seriously, Bush doesn't "strut", but he does sometimes have a brisk way of walking, and an aggressive way of standing.
However, that's not uncommon among self-assured people who have things to do, especially those who are used to power.
Look around among the American elite, and you'll find many with "cowboy" mannerisms, although "gunslinger" might be more specifically what you were aiming for.

As for whether or not he's a "jock", he used to work out with weights four times a week, through the beginning of '03, at least. I dunno if he still does.
Until last year, he used to go on five mile runs in the Texas summer heat, and now he bicycles like a maniac.

If "jock" means a superbly fit person, who enjoys exertion, then Bush is a jock.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 2, 2006 5:05 AM

Just out of curiosity, who is your favorite president?

Posted by: Bryan at January 2, 2006 8:23 AM

It has to be Jimmy Carter. Or perhaps Wilson.

Posted by: ratbert at January 2, 2006 8:25 AM

Grog: I understand that you don't like the guy, even including the way he looks, walks and breathes. I understand completely. I used to have the same sort of reaction to Bill Clinton, and couldn't believe that everyone else who saw him didn't immediately see that he was a smug liar. But ultimately I had to accept that they really didn't. I tried not to let it stop me from seeing the man as he was, which was (until the Monica stuff came out) as a run-of-the-mill C- president, probably the best president in my lifetime for whom I never voted and a G-d send for Republicans.

I have to say that I'm amazed that the Democrats haven't thrown him overboard yet, as doing so would make their life much easier.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 2, 2006 9:48 AM


My wonderment is the opposite--why aren't they imitating the most successful Democratic president since Cleveland? Or imitating Cleveland for that matter? The lesson Democrats have learned from the 20th Century is to try to be more McGovernite. That's odd.

Posted by: oj at January 2, 2006 9:59 AM

I hear what you're saying, but I think that there are a couple of issues.

First, he was the most successful Democratic president because he was reelected and popular throughout his term. But, whatever the causation, his term was disastrous for the Democrats as a whole.

Second, the party is left with a much narrower base as its traditional strongholds in the northeast, private employee unions, blue-collar workers, etc., shrink.

Third, the result of all this is that the party is a Congressional minority party run for and by people who are afraid for their cushy, high-paying jobs. Asking Nancy Pelosi to take a risk for someone else's benefit -- particularly when she sincerely believes what she's saying now -- is a long-shot.

Fourth, this isn't particularly a Democratic failing. Why'd it take the Republicans until 2000 to think of running Ronald Reagan Jr.? (Not literally, of course.)

Fifth, Hillary is holding out for the ability to run the same sort of triangulating campaign. In 2008, she'll be running a third way campaign touting her support for the war and willingness to defend the country along with her compassion in wanting to undo all the drastic social-spending cuts put in place by the Republicans.

Sixth, isn't the question really "why did Kerry ran a Shrum campaign?" Kerry was terribly advised, but this was probably the right way to go. In the end, a candidate has to be who he is and Kerry is no third-wayer.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 2, 2006 10:31 AM

OT, I think that it's hilarious that Kerry is reportedly mulling an '08 run at the Oval Office.

How many people, having served 19 years in the Senate without becoming a household name, have ever been elected POTUS ?

Kerry was simply "not-Bush" in '04, and in '08 he'll have served 24 years in the Senate.
At least he'll have name recognition - as the guy who couldn't take down a lying moron.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 2, 2006 10:45 AM


I think many Republicans had to have that come-to-Clinton self-confrontation you describe. All the "where's the outrage" stuff. It is energetic, but not really productive.

I remember thinking in early 1994 when cartoonists started drawing Hillary with the Nixonian shadow that the jig was up for them. But it wasn't. Although Clinton's press conference after the 1994 mid-term announcing his continued relevancy was amusing (and very self-revealing).

The Dems can't throw him overboard because it would hurt Hillary too much (unless she were to divorce him, as I believe she must if she really wants to win).

The problem with people like Grog (and KB, and lonbud, etc.) is that they are just repeating the same drivel from the 1960s and the 1980s that they used against LBJ, Nixon, and Reagan. They are convinced their rants are insightful, wise, and utterly moral.

Now, Clinton was a smug liar, but the Republicans adjusted (after he was acquitted, anyway). So perhaps the best thing would be to have an impeachment vote in the House. Clear the air, sort of. See where people stand. How would Murtha vote? Or John Spratt? Or Steny Hoyer? Or Harold Ford?

Sure, the barking moonbats (Conyers, Shelia Jackson Lee, Maurice Hinchley, Pelosi, etc., maybe even John Lewis) would vote yes, but I'll bet even old Bernie Sanders (running for the Senate) would vote no. Because they know how Clinton's numbers went up throughout late 1998 and early 1999. It wasn't until the summer of 2000 that Bill began to wear out his welcome, and then the pardon stuff really drove him down.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 2, 2006 11:04 AM

if bill dies before 2008 does that help or hurt hillary ? i say her chance at the white house goes on the funeral pyre along with the shriveled corpse of bill.

Posted by: toestradomus at January 2, 2006 12:20 PM

While it might be true that Hill can't win without Bill, it's also true that anyone who votes for Hill thinking that they'll get Bill back, once removed, is fooling themselves - or maybe Hill will actively promote that idea, in which case she'll be fooling them.

Hill ain't gonna let Bill within sniffing distance of the Oval Office. She might not even let him live at the White House.
If she appointed him as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, she could ensure that he stayed in NYC, which would be both close enough, and far enough away.

Bill owes Hillary. She saved his candidacy in '92, and she saved his Presidency during his Monica problems.

Right now they're locked in a Devil's Pact: They both could sink the other's career/legacy, and possibly put each other in prison.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 2, 2006 1:53 PM

think bill wants his already puny legacy reduced to "husband of the first lady president" ? no way he let's her even run for the democratic nomination without creating a mess that sinks her candidacy. he's way too pathological to allow even that much shared limelight.

Posted by: toe at January 2, 2006 3:03 PM

The only way Bill helps Hill win is by assuming room temperature. Every effort should be made to make sure he is still hale and healthy by the presidential conventions in the summer of '08 and if Hillary is on the ticket, make sure he's still smiling on election day.

A goner Bill means a President Rodham.

Posted by: erp at January 2, 2006 3:28 PM

He'll easily give the best speech at her convention and be a very effective surrogate campaigner, fund raiser and advisor.

Posted by: oj at January 2, 2006 4:14 PM

and then one day he will cause the entire effort to turn brown and runny.

Posted by: toe at January 2, 2006 6:34 PM


If she wants to be the straw that stirs the drink, then she has to get rid of him. She'll lose five times the votes from his smug buttery vapid self-absorbed live shot mosh dives than she will gain from his advice and presence.

OK.....must control fist of death.....back to calm now.

Obviously he can help with the money, but I wonder if the attendant problems are worth it.

One thing he could do for her is attack the hard left - what are they going to say to him (in public)? If they open the can of worms about the party's collapse since 1992, well - Karl Rove couldn't have scripted that one better, no?

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 2, 2006 10:49 PM

David: I hate Clinton and Bush equally. Actually, I think I hate Clinton more, because more people were/are fooled by his image.
And let me reiterate a point that I've made before, which is that I don't place absolute blame for what I see to be crummy executive branch policies on the person George Bush; I am certain that he does what he's told. But I also think that he has a choice to resist what how he is steered into acting, but his life and experiences would lead him into going along with it.
I don't have a favorite president, but it certainly wouldn't be one from the 20th century, and I have mixed feelings about the idealisms of the first few. I suppose Lincoln is the best answer I can give.
Kerry threw the election. Republicans knew they had the election won by the time the Democratic Primaries ended.
I think that there might be some issues in '08 that will allow Hillary to split the GOP along several lines, and I think Bill is more popular now than he's ever been, and Bush's unpopularity will only make that more so. And I think the Bill/Hillary dynamic will be so popular with the MSM that story will sell itself. And this bothers me, because I would like to see McCain president before every other Republican who has a chance.

Jim: Please, please tell me what kind of drivel I am borrowing from detractors of Nixon, Johnson, and Reagan?

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 11:24 PM

Jim: Nobody listens to the hard-left (except college students) unlike the hard-right.

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 11:26 PM


Ah, but that's where you're wrong: George W. Bush deserves all the blame/credit. If you hate liberalizing the Middle East, lowering taxes, personalizing the welfare state and a Culture of Life then you should hate him. It's why we like him.

Posted by: oj at January 3, 2006 3:09 AM


It seems that your primary complaint is always pointed towards economic justice (or equality, or communism, whichever). Such thinking is drivel, because it has been romanticized since Marx (with a nod to Rousseau), but has never produced one iota of justice, equality, or community wherever it has been imposed.

Robust capitalism is always more 'just' than smarmy socialism. The whole problem is that you attribute "evil" to corporations and governments, but that is just a fallacy. Some corporations act evil (at times), not because they are corporations, but because they are human organizations. Same with governments.

Look at what Gazprom (Russian entity) is doing right now in Ukraine and in Europe - charging more than the market rate for natural gas to nations that don't follow Putin's orders. Is that 'evil'? Is it because Gazprom is a faceless monster, or because Putin is driving the bus? You figure it out.

You have written that both the Dems and the GOP are guilty - does that make you a Naderite? A Green? Nader is the last person to look to for openness and community. He is an oligarch all his own, with millions invested in the stock market and lots of layers of resistance to any probing questions. Why?

And so I said drivel. From the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s. Nothing new. You need to update your criticism.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 3, 2006 9:41 AM

One of the talents one develops as a leftist/liberal/democrat is the skillful labelling of people. It doesn't matter that the adjectives or adverbs attached to the person is correct, as long as the attempt is made to attach, at the same time, a desired emotion, feeling, or thought to the person. If positive, they're puffing the person. If negative, they're slandering the person. Above all else, the slanderer needs to make sure nobody else suspects that's their (the slanderer's) objective, otherwise, the attention turns to the mud flinger rather than his target.

I got this insight considering how the Serpent tempted Eve in the Garden: he presented no facts, no proof, just insinuation, accusation, and spin, relying on the instinct of self-preservation to take precedence over sober thought. Helps me to properly classify Grog and his ilk...

Posted by: Ptah at January 3, 2006 2:03 PM

Jim: Connecting the dots between goverment and business and laying the blame for the two in mismanaging the world in a way is not a romanticized notion; it did not begin with Marx, he only laid his criticism in terms that became very popular, and it HAS produced results in social movements since the beginning of civilization, outside of your programmed images of Cold War brutality.
Whether you like it or not, aspects of contemporary government, on every level, are responses in a way to the problems of the past that law-abiding citizens have voluntarily imposed on themselves for the better of all. We are not absolutely individualistic. We are not absolutely capitalist. It is not every man for himself. Humans are social animals.
It is not conspiracy theory to say that government legislation and decisions on all levels have been corrupted in the past by the interests in a priveleged few against the needs, wants, and futures of the underpriveleged masses. Many of you rationalize this exploitation through trickle-down theory, end-of-history discourse, Christianity, American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, etc. The only thing it take for you to label me Leftist, Liberal, Democrat, Socialist, or Communist is to view the class struggle in the terms used above.
Nowadays, most of the misery that once was commonplace in American divisions of labor (slavery) has been exported to other countries. So I know you guys can point out what a wonderful place America is, but to a large extent I believe that is due to the fact that we have exported our problems.
I don't know what Nader has to do with me. I like some of his ideas, but I wouldn't vote for him. I don't believe in the structure of our current government in the atmosphere of the hegemonic two-party system.
Corporations act evil when they are inhuman organization; when it is numbers that are making the decisions; when ownership has become completely divorced from management; when they begin to view their own selfish interests as being separate from the community they are based in.
It is extremely easy for me to point out historical examples, in America, where wealth has corrupted the democratic process, I even think I could conjecture ways in which the same is occurring as we speak. It is not an over emotional rant. If you want me to, play a little game of connect the dots with you, I will.

Posted by: Grog at January 4, 2006 5:08 AM