Thursday, December 30, 2004


Clearing Brush?

George Bush likes to clear brush:

"President Bush has been seldom seen in the waning days of 2002. On Friday, while North Korea was spreading nuclear panic in Asia, a White House spokesman announced that the president spent the morning "clearing brush" and then went jogging; yesterday it was fishing and more brush clearing...All of which raises various questions. With all the time the president has spent clearing brush, how is it possible that there is still any brush left on his ranch? And what is he doing about North Korea's nuclear shenanigans"-Dana Milbank. Washington Post, December 31, 2002

"Bush Will Cut Brush All August Long,'' - New York Post, July 30, 2003

``Bush Starts Monthlong Vacation in Texas Clearing Brush, Fishing'' - The Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 4, 2003

``President George W. Bush got a chance to renew his favorite vacation pastimes on a hot, hazy Sunday at his ranch. He took a walk, cleared brush and went fishing.'' - The Associated Press, Aug. 3, 2003.

"The President is chopping down lots of small scruffy looking bushes that make it hard to walk around out there. He uses a very loud chain saw and people watch him really hard and seem kind of nervous while he is doing this. Then he and Kenneth pile up the brush and set it on fire. They watch it until it goes out and always have water ready in case the fire gets out of hand. They say that children and dogs should not play with fire! Your fur will get singed!"-Spot and Barney's Crawford Scrapbook!

"While Bush's rival, Democrat John Kerry, continues to campaign, the president is scheduled to be at his ranch for about a week, taking a break from re-election appearances. It's his 38th presidential trip to his ranch where he spends time outdoors fishing, clearing brush and exploring its rocky terrain, waterfalls and canyons. On Wednesday, he took a bike ride, and has been watching some of the Summer Olympics, McClellan said."-August 19, 2004

Dave Shiflet even wrote a "philosophical article" entitled Bush vs. Brush: The zen of the president's pastime , The National Review, January 28, 2002 in which he argues that brush clearing is a manly "aggressive act" (after all Ronald Reagan also enjoyed it): "Do I dare disturb the universe?" asked poor Prufrock, patron saint of the Sensitive Man. "Let me get my saw and show you how," is the brush- clearer's response."

And of course, this week as tsunamis ravaged Southeast Asia:

"White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling."

President Bush did not buy his 1600 acre Prairie Chapel Ranch, near Crawford Texas, until 1999. His previous homes were well-to-do suburban. His "brush-clearing" mania seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Why?

I spent several summers on my aunt and uncle's dairy farm. I have had some experience with clearing brush. In my experience it was a mindless, sweaty, nasty occupation in the relatively mild Pennsylvania summer. In Crawford, Texas, in the summer it must be unbearable--in the winter barely tolerable. Again why does he do this? Or does he? Has anyone ever seen the President clearing brush (other than in short photo opportunities)?

My theory is that "clearing brush" is a White House euphemism for "goofing off". The media-savvy White House is not going to announce that the President spent several hours doing nothing. That sounds unmanly and unaggressive.

Bill Clinton played golf and enjoyed other "recreations". Nixon made enemies lists. Ike golf, again. Truman drank bourbon and played poker with his cronies. FDR collected stamps and enjoyed mixing cocktails. Daddy Bush played a mean game of tennis. Reagan "cleared brush" on his ranch.

I can see the image-makers at the White House rejecting all of the previous president's recreations and declaring "Brush-clearing--that's the ticket". After all a "born again" dry alcoholic doesn't have a lot of choices.

Perhaps the time, lives, and treasure of the 148,000 strong expeditionary force in Iraq might be better spent tracking down the neer-do-well who actually possessed and launched a WMD attack on our shores, and who remains at large, the Anthrax person or persons.
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