Give the man a microphone and he’ll talk about anything. For 76 minutes, President Bush prowled the stage Wednesday in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, giving a speech and answering questions about everything from his opposition to tax increases to his veto of a bill to expand children’s health insurance.
But he covered a lot of other ground, too.
Bush gave an intriguing description about what happens when businesses expand, as was the case here at a company run by a woman.
«You know, when you give a man more money in his pocket — in this case, a woman — more money in her pocket to expand a business, they build new buildings. And when somebody builds a new building, somebody has got to come and build the building.»
«And when the building expanded, it prevented (sic) additional opportunities for people to work. Tax cuts matter. I’m going to spend some time talking about it,» the president said.
He offered a pointed description of his job.
«My job is a decision-making job. And as a result, I make a lot of decisions,» the president said.
He elaborated on that point later.
«I delegate to good people. I always tell Condi Rice, ‘I want to remind you, Madam Secretary, who has the Ph.D. and who was the C student. And I want to remind you who the adviser is and who the president is.’
«I got a lot of Ph.D.-types and smart people around me who come into the Oval Office and say, ‘Mr. President, here’s what’s on my mind.’ And I listen carefully to their advice. But having gathered the device (sic), I decide, you know, I say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ And it’s ‘Yes, sir, Mr. President.’ And then we get after it, implement policy.»
Bush, known for his impatience when fellow leaders rattle on, acknowledged he was doing the same himself in his opening remarks.
«I’ll be glad to answer some questions from you if you got any,» he said. «If not, I can keep on blowing hot air until the time runs out.»
Asked about global warming, he gave a lengthy account of alternative fuels.
«I’m not quite through,» he said near the end. «And it’s a long answer, I’m sorry. It’s called filibustering.» After one answer about American views of the Iraq war, Bush said sheepishly: «I think that was your question, wasn’t it? The answer was so long I lost track.»
He had some fun with a woman who seemed slow on the draw when Bush called on her.
«You want a little chance to collect the thoughts, you know? I mean we’re talking national TV here, you know?» he said.
«I actually wrote it down so I wouldn’t get flustered,» the woman said.
«It didn’t work,» Bush said.
Bush gave an upbeat assessment of being president, despite polls showing the public overwhelmingly disapproves of the job he’s doing.
«I told somebody behind stage, this has been a joyous experience being the president,» Bush said. «My buddies in Texas just simply don’t think I’m telling them the truth. But it is.»
He forgot that he had promised a question to a woman. «When you’re getting over 60, sometimes your mind slips,» said Bush, who is 61.
Finally, he decided he had said enough.
«And I got to go, I hate to tell you. You’re paying me too much money to be sitting here talking.»