The side effects of Bush fatigue.
Thursday, Mar. 16, 2006
43 Winks: Nobody ever promised them a Rose Garden, but for the Bush White House, it's been a tough year. The vice president shot a senior citizen. The domestic policy adviser faces up to 30 years on felony theft charges for applying Bush's economic policy at a box store. The White House pastry chef left after just 18 months to work for a more reputable outfit: a casino chain in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Nervous Republicans, who thought nothing could be worse than 2005, are increasingly desperate for a White House shakeup in 2006. Sen. Norm Coleman threw down the gauntlet on Tuesday, accusing a White House that thinks about politics 24/seven of having a political "tin ear."
Bush aides offer a more sympathetic excuse: They're bushed. "We're all burned out," a White House official told Peter Baker of the Washington Post. "People are just tired." Chief of Staff Andrew Card sets the pace by waking up every morning at 4:20. If he got up any earlier, the president's approval might fall below 30 percent.
When Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked whether the Bush team was tired, he reportedly "joked" that he was "tired of some of the questions." But according to Baker, the staff's condition is serious: "While there are few stories of aides nodding off in meetings, some duck outside during the day so the fresh air will wake them up." All this time we've worried about terrorists—and now we learn the nation has been taken over by zombies.
Then again, why is the Bush crowd so tired? In five years, they haven't done much. Cheney misfired on the last day of vacation. If the charges against him are true, Claude Allen spent more time in the Target parking lot over the past few months than my former White House colleague Gene Sperling spent outdoors in eight years.
Wake Up, Little Bushie: There's only one good explanation for Bushie fatigue, and Stephanie Saul of the New York Times has the answer: Ambien. Last week, Saul reported on the remarkable phenomenon of driving while asleep. All over the country, people apparently have taken the drug Ambien before bed, then proceeded to sleepwalk to their cars and sleep-drive into the nearest ditch. A Colorado woman "got into her car wearing only a thin nightshirt in 20-degree weather, had a fender bender, urinated in the middle of an intersection, then became violent with police officers." A parole officer in South Carolina woke up in jail after going on a joy ride in his sleep.
Harriet Miers, Hurricane Katrina, Dubai Ports World—could there be a better word to describe the Bush administration's past year than "sleep-driving"? The Bush team doesn't have a tin ear; they were just road-testing the prescription drug bill.
Yesterday, the Times reported another troubling side effect:
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at email@example.com. Read his disclosure here.
Photograph of Barack Obama by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.