Tuesday, August 22, 2006

... we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides....

--from the current "Washington Whispers" column in U.S. News

Stepping outside the boundaries of strict political and diplomatic protocol gets no more attention than when the president of the United States does it. And President Bush has been doing a lot of it recently.

He called Canada's prime minister by his first name, massaged German Chancellor Angela Merkel's shoulders and played tour guide to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at Graceland, the Memphis home of Elvis Presley.

His biggest gaffe was that caught-on-tape moment at the G-8 Summit last month with British Prime Minister Tony Blair the one that featured Bush cursing and talking with his mouth full before a microphone that was supposed to be off. That set off tut-tuts around the globe.

While four-letter expletives or a shoulder massage of a co-worker of the opposite sex could raise eyebrows in many office settings, Bush for the most part gets a pass from etiquette experts.

"Part of it is he comes from Texas, and they don't stand on a lot of formality in that state," said Letitia Baldrige, who was President Kennedy's social secretary. "I think you get the Eastern kind of aristocrats, like the old days, they're always going to be more formal, they're always going to have a jacket on."...

--AP today

Don't be fooled -- these aren't embarrassing stories, and it's not a coincidence that they appear almost simultaneously. The White House clearly wants this out right now.

Why? I'm not sure. Preemptive counterprogramming to the expected outing of a top White House aide or ally as gay, perhaps? Or maybe just an attempt to motivate the flatulence-lovin' base?

Never mind, of course, that all this flatly contradicts what we heard at the dawn of the W. era:

...Mr. Bush, who promised during the election campaign to restore "honour and dignity" to the White House, ... and his lieutenants resent the sloppy informality of Mr. Clinton's blue-jeaned army of youthful assistants, whose attire and attitude they considered disrespectful.

From the moment Mr. Bush swore in his staff this week, his deputies made it clear the President expects his staff to dress correctly. No dress code was issued, but there will be no more denim or T-shirts in the Oval Office, where former president Ronald Reagan never even removed his suit jacket.

"The days of jeans and no ties at the White House are over," predicted Georgette Mosbacher, a prominent Republican activist....

--Globe & Mail, 1/25/01

A few weeks after I joined the White House, I read a memoir by Clinton's chief speechwriter, Michael Waldman. Waldman described late-night editing sessions in the Roosevelt Room, the big meeting room on the main floor of the West Wing. By midnight, he recalled, the long conference table would be covered with pizza boxes and capsized French fries. Pizza! At midnight! In the Roosevelt Room! In the Bush White House, the idea would have been as incredible as spitting on the carpet.

--David Frum, The Right Man, pp. 14-15

... the Clinton White House [was] a place where opponents' FBI files were read aloud over pizza and foreign contributors with cash invited in the back door. I thought: Something's wrong with these people, they lack thought and dignity. But most of all they seemed to lack respect, a sense of awe....

--Peggy Noonan, 9/14/98, republished 10/5/01

Of course, whichever way the administration plays it, the lapdogs in the White House press corps will lap it up.

(First item via Shakespeare's Sister. Last three quotes cribbed from an earlier post about this administration's impeccable breeding.)

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