Speculating on President Bush's Lame-Duck Status The White House has been in a lot of headlines this week, from the "Scooter" Libby trial to the Senate debate over President Bush's Iraq policy. But Mr. Bush himself wasn't producing headlines. That has led to speculation that the president is adjusting to his status as a lame duck.
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Speculating on President Bush's Lame-Duck Status

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Speculating on President Bush's Lame-Duck Status

Speculating on President Bush's Lame-Duck Status

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The White House has been in a lot of headlines this week with Lewis Libby on trial and the Senate convulsed over President Bush's Iraq policy. But Mr. Bush himself wasn't producing many headlines. His public schedule includes a single event over the past few days, and none are on tap for tomorrow. That has led to speculation that the president is adjusting to his status as a lame duck, a label that he has insisted he would never tolerate.

NPR's David Greene reports from the White House.

DAVID GREENE: If you ever want to get a rise out of President Bush, just ask him if thinks his presidency is winding down. Here's how he responded back in December.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm going to sprint to the finish, and we can get a lot done, and you're talking about legacy. Here, I know that people - everybody is trying to write the history of this administration even before it's over.

GREENE: His administration is in fact far from over. But these days if you wonder around the area where White House reporters do their work, you notice something.

Ms. JULIE MASON (Houston Chronicle): It's just kind of quiet. There's kind of a sleepy feel. People aren't showing up here as much they used to. The briefings are less populated than they used to be.

GREENE: Julie Mason is a longtime White House correspondent for the Houston Chronicle. She has noticed many have been focusing more on Capitol Hill or getting out on a 2008 campaign trail. She says the coat rack here in the reporters workspace used to be full everyday.

Ms. MASON: But not lately. I'm counting five and it looks like at least two of them may date back to the Ford administration.

GREENE: And then there are the vending machines where especially decaffeinated machines always run out.

(Soundbtite of bottles falling)

Ms. MASON: You could see now there is no problem. Plenty of Diet Coke - unheard of.

GREENE: Mason says she's also sensed the change when she's called up professors or experts to talk about them about President Bush.

Ms. MASON: It becomes sort of a treasure hunt, trying to locate someone who can comment on Bush, because they all are paying attention to other settings.

GREENE: Is this pretty new since the election or since the State of the Union or when?

Ms. MASON: Definitely since the election. People are just sort of tuned out to what he's doing. And nothing he's doing is very interesting, especially this week.

GREENE: This week, Mr. Bush started out with a Monday cabinet meeting. Afterwards, he told reporters a bit about his new budget. And he spoke briefly about Iraqi leaders and their attempt to put a new program in place to reduce violence.

President BUSH: And the fact that government officials are now saying that it's time to start implementing a plan is a good sign. It shows that they understand that now's the time to do the things necessary to protect their people. Thank you.

GREENE: Right after the cameras and microphones went off, the president joked with David Gregory of NBC News. Gregory has been spending time hosting "The Today Show," and Mr. Bush said to Gregory, you're trying to get in the big time. You're leaving us.

Beyond that cabinet meeting, the president made a couple of short of hops across the Potomac to Virginia this week. He stopped Tuesday in Manassas to talk about his budget and tour a technology company.

President BUSH: I appreciate Pat, the side director. He gave me a tour. He tried to explain all the big machines that were there to a history major. I played like I understood.

GREENE: And yesterday he flew to the Mountains to discuss National Park Service funding.

President BUSH: Laura and I and the secretary really appreciate the good folks here at Shenandoah National Park for their hospitality and their hard work in making this beautiful part of our country accessible to citizens.

GREENE: It was snowy up at Shenandoah and he had to move inside to a visitor center. The event didn't show up on cable news channels or cause much of a stir back in Washington. Today, Mr. Bush was visiting the Department of Homeland Security to get a terrorism briefing. Aides said he could have been briefed at the White House, but that it's important for him to get out and see what's going on at the departments and agencies. After all, he's in charge of them for another 23 months.

David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

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