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Bush's Amazing Gracelessness

June 15, 2006

In the Bible, Jesus cured the blind. In a bizarre White House Rose Garden press conference yesterday, President Bush chose to taunt them instead.
During a rambling session with reporters following his Baghdad pop-in, Bush chided Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten for wearing sunglasses during the press conference:

THE PRESIDENT: Are you going to ask that question with shades on?
WALLSTEN: I can take them off.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
WALLSTEN: All right, I'll keep it, then.
THE PRESIDENT: For the viewers, there's no sun.
WALLSTEN: I guess it depends on your perspective.

Unfortunately for the adolescent Bush, Wallsten is legally blind. The President, who himself suffers from a verbal incontinence some have attributed to dyslexia, poked fun at a man afflicted with Stargardt's disease, a type of macular degeneration that leads to progressive vision loss. Mercifully, Bush the compassionate conservative had the baseline decency to call Wallsten later to apologize (an apology Wallsten gracefully rejected as unnecessary).
This childish episode is not Bush's first attempt at comedy at the expense of the disabled. As I wrote back in May, during a trip to Florida to pitch his Medicare prescription plan, Bush joked to a man in a wheelchair, "you look mighty comfortable." Bush the Younger might do well to remember his father's words upon signing the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, "let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."
During the 2000 campaign, candidate George W. Bush claimed his favorite philosopher was Christ, because, as he put it, "he changed my heart." As it turns out, not so much.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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