Just one day after the Iraqi government received failing marks in President Bush's surge interim progress report, Americans learned that the Iraqi parliament is proceeding with its plans to take off the month of August. But while the American people may be up in arms, President Bush's amen corner is predictably silent. After all, given Bush's own record-setting penchant for vacationing during crises here at home, Republicans are understandably reticent to criticize the absentee government in Baghdad.
Judging by the numbers, the Bush presidency at times resembles one extended holiday. As of this Easter, Bush had traveled to his Crawford ranch 63 times, spending all or part of 405 days there. By August 2005, Bush set the two-term record for most presidential days off, easily eclipsing Ronald Reagan's previous eight-year tally of 335.
While Bush has been AWOL from the White House even more than from the Texas Air National Guard, it's what he missed during his time at play that is more disturbing still. In August 2001, the Crawford-based Bush brushed off what he deemed a "cover your ass" memo, the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) ominously titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Four years later, Bush strummed an acoustic guitar as New Orleans was submerged by Hurricane Katrina. The following July, Bush relaxed again, as the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict exploded in Lebanon. And just weeks ago, Bush hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the family compound in Kennebunkport. While Bush was apparently once again looking into Putin's soul, the budding Kremlin autocrat was moving ahead with his plan to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.
It's no wonder White House press secretary Tony Snow got a little testy on Friday when he was grilled by the press corps about the soon-to-be missing in action Iraqi legislature:
Q: Is the Iraqi government and the Iraqi parliament taking the month of August off?
SNOW: Probably, yes. Just not -
Q: They're taking the entire month of August off, before the September deadline?
SNOW: It looks like they may, yes. Just like the U.S. Congress is.
Q: Have you tried to talk them out of that?
SNOW: You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August, I'll pass on your recommendation.
Q: Well, Tony, Tony, I'm sorry, that's - you know - I mean, there are a lot of things that happen by September and it's 130 degrees for the U.S. military also on the ground -
SNOW: You know, that's a good point. And it's 130 degrees for the Iraqi military.
While Snow got bitch-slapped by the press for his arrogance, he didn't need to worry about Bush's Republican allies on the hill. As ThinkProgress noted Saturday, House Republicans, who in May called on Vice President Cheney to pressure the Iraqis to change, have little to say now.
Given the dismal progress report last Thursday, the White House and the Republican Party understandably want to avoid drawing attention to the vacationing Iraqi parliamentarians. Almost as much as they want to avoid shining a spotlight on our ever-vacationing President.