Start your engines, forget the issues

Once again, President George W. Bush conducted a publicity stunt to show he is an all-American man. This time he was courting NASCAR fans during the weekend at the Daytona 500. Complete with a racecar jacket, Bush began the event, attended by 180,000, saying: “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

All this to prove he can relate to working-class America and earn a few more white conservative votes. Then, just like any average American, Bush and his wife, Laura, left in his motorcade to fly to Tampa and dine on steak with former governors and mayors. After dinner, a black limousine took the couple to the Hyatt in downtown Tampa for the night.

On Monday it was back to the working class, where Bush spoke at NuAir Manufacturing about how the economic downturn in the United States is not his fault. Instead, Bush blamed the recession on corporate scandals — Enron is, after all, something Bush has insider information about — and the 2001 terrorist attacks and added that his policies have improved the economy. But he made no mention of how $87 billion in defense spending for the war in Iraq could have contributed to the more than eight million Americans who are unemployed, according to the Associated Press. He also did not tackle the issue of the $500-billion deficit.

Bush acknowledged the slow job growth during his presidency but said the economy is indeed strong considering the hurdles faced in the United States. But he dodged identifying what the specific hurdle was, maybe because it is the costly war in Iraq and the rebuilding measures it will take. According to an AP report, 2.2 million jobs have been lost during Bush’s presidency. Yet, Bush didn’t mention the specifics on unemployment even though his speech focused on the economy.

Bush said one reason the economy is doing so well right now is because he has allowed the people to keep more of their own money. And don’t argue with him because he said he will “argue vociferously” on the matter. Judging by the 2004 calendar of President Bush (Mis)speak, Bush probably doesn’t even know what the word means, let alone, how to pronounce it correctly.

David Sirota, who works for the Center of American Progress, said according to the president’s records, Bush’s policies have worsened the recession for thousands of Floridians, another addition to the list of things Bush failed to address. Then again, examining records hasn’t been the best of the White House staff’s abilities. The New York Times reported last week that 30-year-old microfiche files show Bush was paid for 82 days in all from 1972-73 as proof he fulfilled his duties in the National Guard.

Before releasing the records the White House claimed they didn’t know they were available. A Feb. 8 interview on Meet the Press, made Bush’s service in the Guard seem questionable. The following night the White House released parts of the records.

Only after the press corps interrogated press secretary Scott McClellan for several days straight did the administration release what it had promised from the get go.

Bush seemed appalled that the media should dare ask if he completed his duties as a Guard, and the White House was sluggish to answer with the records.

But Bush has been quick to use the media, aside from Daytona 500, in a public relations effort.

There was his visit on the USS Abraham, a “surprise” Thanksgiving day visit to Baghdad and let’s not forget when Air Force One landed outside a hangar at MacDill last year. Then again on Monday, Bush, wearing goggles and holding a tool, posed next to NuAir workers to appear as if he was washing windows with the crew. Bush’s stunts have been convincing enough to sell “Elite Force Aviator” action figures of him sporting a flight suit. But judging by the polls, when it comes to answering to the public, his explanations are not as marketable.

Grace Agostin is a senior majoring in mass communications.