Kevin Drum quotes from the Atlantic Monthly‘s current bio-piece on Karl Rove – but it’s really a George Bush anecdote from Dick Armey (no latte-sipping liberal, to say the least):
“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.”
Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,'” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”
Armey only looks at it from a tactical standpoint, of course, because as a Republican he has a vested interest in not stating the obvious: that George W. Bush is an arrogant, self-centred boor.
Seriously, think about this for a second. If I knew that simply by signing some stupid little thing I could totally make somebody’s day – not even something serious like most autographs require, but a stupid scrap of paper – the temptation would be to sign as much stupid shit as possible. (Indeed, sports agents will tell you stories about how “autograph fatigue” for sports stars takes years to set in, and how they have to train their newer prospective stars to not give autographs upon basic request.) It would be not unlike crack. (And indeed, most people who sign a lot of things like to add their own flourish. When I got my copy of Mouse Guard signed, David Petersen not only signed it but quickly doodled a tiny mouse warrior into his name. And he had a line, so he was keeping busy.)
But George W. Bush sees the opportunity to do a tiny bit of good and sneers at it.
What a pathetic asshole.