If you watched last night’s The Daily Show you saw a clip of Bush at Kansas State University taking a question about education — today Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe provides a description —
In the question-and-answer period, there was a moment when Bush was caught confused about his assets in another arena. Someone asked Bush, ”Recently, $12.7 billion was cut from education . . . How is that supposed to help our futures?”
There was applause from the crowd.
Bush stumbled. ”Education budget was cut? Say it again. What was cut?”
The person said, ”$12.7 billion was cut from education. And I was just wanting to know: How is that supposed to help our futures?”
Bush said, ”At the federal level?”
The person said, ”Yes.”
Bush said, ”I don’t think we’ve actually — for higher education?”
The person said, ”Student loans.”
Bush said, ”Student loans?”
The person said, ”Yes, student loans.”
Bush said, ”Actually I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren’t going to be cut off the program. We’re just making sure . . . it functions better. In other words, we are not taking people off student loans. We are saving money in the student loan program because it’s inefficient.”
Bush continued, ”And secondly, . . . we’re actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget.”
Derrick Jackson provides the correct answer:
The questioner at Kansas State was correct. In December, the Senate passed a $12.7 billion cut in loan aid, which would force college students and their families to pay much higher interest rates on their loans. Pell grants would remain capped at $4,050 for the fourth straight year, further depressing a purchasing power which has declined, according to the American Council on Education, from covering 84 percent of the cost of a public four-year college in 1972 to 34 percent today.
Jackson points out that just two weeks earlier Bush gave an address at an elementary school in Maryland to observe the anniversary of No Child Left Behind and promote the importance of education.
There are many observations one could make about the exchange at KSU. For one, can you imagine any other president of recent memory being caught that flat-footed by a question? (And did no one on the Bushie team anticipate that university students might ask a question about Pell Grants?) Once again, we see that Bush isn’t really interested in governing. He’s interested in power, and the perks of office, but the governing thing just doesn’t get his attention.
Back from paternity leave (yeah!) Dan Froomkin also provides commentary on Bush’s appearance at KSU.
How can a president of the United States talk for almost two hours, unscripted, and be so fundamentally unrevealing? …
… Just by virtue of his speaking so long, the meandering talk at Kansas State University generated zillions of column inches this morning in which reporters dutifully recorded the one genuinely new development — his rechristening of “domestic spying” as “terrorist surveillance” — as well as his playful digs at his wife, his hemming and hawing when asked about that gay cowboy movie, and so on.
And simply by taking a baby step outside his protective bubble and fielding unscreened questions (most, but not all of them, softballs) from a starry-eyed, solidly red-state audience, he garnered buzz about being forthcoming.
But he wasn’t.
Ultimately Bush unplugged gave a performance of remarkably little substance. There was no new thinking on display. There were no real insights shared. Instead, we heard mostly restatements of policy, familiar phrases and even whole stories recycled from the 2004 campaign.
My favorite Bush line, as recorded by Froomkin: “If I had to give you a job description, it would be a decision-maker. I make a lot of decisions.”
Wow, that’s …. inane.