Does Bush really feel our pain?


THURSDAY morning when the President started his press conference on the economy, I decided to quickly finish a task at work before going to watch.

Then, just as I got my pen and paper - old fashioned, I know, but we still use them often around here - I heard him finish.

I was stunned and perplexed as to how the commander in chief could be so brief about a disaster of such proportions.

So that's how the President of the United States shows a petrified nation that he feels our pain during the worse financial crisis in years? In a two-minute, no-questions-answered press conference and by canceling travel plans to stay in Washington near financial advisers?

Actually, after viewing recordings of Mr. Bush's address, I don't believe he was talking to ordinary citizens. Consider what he said.

"The American people are concerned about the situation in our financial markets and our economy, and I share their concerns." He added, "The American people can be sure we will continue to act to strengthen and stabilize our financial markets and improve investor confidence."

Clearly, he was talking to market analysts and those in his financial stratosphere - who were probably glad he kept his remarks short since the market dropped 30 points as he talked.

Ordinary citizens don't speak in terms of "liquidity" of the markets, "improving investor confidence," and the "markets adjusting." Common folk want to know how quickly they can cash out their investments, how reliable are the people and firms with whom they trust their money, and whether the markets will settle down without doing harm.

Then yesterday, the President held another news conference with more substance. Though I got the feeling that it was in response to the widespread outrage of his miserably short comments on Thursday, in less than 10 minutes he told listeners that we've weathered economic storms before, we will now, and that government intervention is imperative to save jobs, retirement and college savings, and homes.

"This will require us to put taxpayer money on the line," he said. He also said taxpayers can "expect to be paid back." We're counting on that.

And because of the government's action this week, he said that for "Every dollar invested in mutual funds you will be able to take a dollar out."

Yesiree. That's what we're talking about.

But many are still worried, especially workers staring at retirement who want their savings to be protected. Boomers and boomlets want their college savings safe, and all of us want to know that the value of our homes will go back up soon.

As bad as things are, though, there haven't been reports of people jumping out of windows or otherwise at their wits' end because of the financial turmoil. And though nobody slept better Thursday night because Mr. Bush didn't go South to raise money for fellow GOP pols, people don't want him to merely stay in touch with financial honchos.

We want him to labor with them, pulling all-nighters or having shut-ins, where nobody gets in and nobody goes out until they are emerge with solutions in hand - for all of us, and not just for AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, et al.

Meanwhile, as the financial world was collapsing on Monday, GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain offered a "there-there now, people, settle down" response when he said he believed the "fundamentals" of the nation's economy are still strong. Whaaat?

Later that day, in a feeble try to lend credence to the remark, Mr. McCain offered this gobbledygook for an explanation: "My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals, the American worker and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America and I think they're strong."

And strong we are. But right now, it's a financial issue. And I still have to ask you to tell me again, what is the difference between Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain?