Stick a Fork in Him, Bush Is Done

Mark Leibovich on Bush's news conference: "Yet for someone whose presidency had just been repudiated...."

Mark Leibovich certainly doesn't hold back the snark inThursday's ostensibly playful look at Bush's White House press conference.

"It was one of those once-a-decade days in Washington where news, rumor and recrimination crackled in every direction. But the wounded duck at the center of it all, President Bush, offered by far the day's most mesmerizing spectacle.

"He looked worn at his must-see midday news conference, in need of a haircut, good-night's sleep, better makeup job, hug, vacation in Crawford or some combination thereof. The grooves across his forehead were dark and articulated, his voice slightly hoarse. He wore a maroon tie, the color of blood.

"Yet for someone whose presidency had just been repudiated, whose party had been sent reeling and whose defense secretary had just been sent packing, Mr. Bush also appeared strangely giddy, like someone who is acting a little odd after suffering a blow to the head, or a "thumpin'," to use the official presidential description....But this was one for the annals, Mr. Bush at the most-diminished moment of his six-year presidency, compelling for the same reason that Shakespeare's tragedies have always been more popular than his comedies or why the long-suffering Chicago Cubs have always had such a large following."

But Leibovich loses his own sense of humor and gets a bit huffy in some predictable liberal places. "His voice went soft and sheepish when he congratulated the 'Democrat leadership in the House and Senate,' deploying a term for his adversaries - the 'Democrat' party as opposed to 'Democratic' party - that he has to know annoys many of them."

Then there's this marathon effort to make a mountain out of a molehill: "The president is also prone to darting into all manner of 'Did he really just say that?' asides. After saying that he looked forward to working with Representative Nancy Pelosi the presumptive House speaker, the president added, 'And in my first act of bipartisan outreach since the election, I shared with her the names of some Republican interior decorators who can help her pick out the new drapes in her new offices.'

"The crack - alluding to the Republican pre-election claim that Ms. Pelosi had been 'measuring the drapes' for the speaker's office - drew laughter in the East Room of the White House, but it provoked head-scratching elsewhere and some slight offense (based on a sampling of viewers on Capitol Hill).

"Was the president making a dig at himself or Ms. Pelosi? Would he make a reference about an interior decorator to a male adversary? Or one not from San Francisco (which some conservatives call the epicenter of the 'radical homosexual agenda')?"

"Perhaps it was a botched joke. The president and John Kerry can compare notes when the Democrats release the Massachusetts senator from the locked cellar they have kept him in for the last week."

Leibovich surely got more out of Bush's crack than Bush ever put into it.