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My Private Idaho
New York Times
By MAUREEN DOWD
W. vacationed so hard in Texas he got bushed. He needed a vacation from his vacation.
The most rested president in American history headed West yesterday to get away from his Western getaway - and the mushrooming Crawford Woodstock - and spend a couple of days at the Tamarack Resort in the rural Idaho mountains.
"I'm kind of hangin' loose, as they say," he told reporters.
As The Financial Times noted, Mr. Bush is acting positively French in his love of le loafing, with 339 days at his ranch since he took office - nearly a year out of his five. Most Americans, on the other hand, take fewer vacations than anyone else in the developed world (even the Japanese), averaging only 13 to 16 days off a year.
W. didn't go alone, of course. Just as he took his beloved feather pillow on the road during his 2000 campaign, now he takes his beloved bike. An Air Force One steward tenderly unloaded W.'s $3,000 Trek Fuel mountain bike when they landed in Boise.
Gas is guzzling toward $3 a gallon. U.S. troop casualties in Iraq are at their highest levels since the invasion. As Donald Rumsfeld conceded yesterday, "The lethality, however, is up." Afghanistan's getting more dangerous, too. The defense secretary says he's raising troop levels in both places for coming elections.
So our overextended troops must prepare for more forced rotations, while the president hangs loose.
I mean, I like to exercise, but W. is psychopathic about it. He interviewed one potential Supreme Court nominee, Harvie Wilkinson III, by asking him how much he exercised. Last winter, Mr. Bush was obsessed with his love handles, telling people he was determined to get rid of seven pounds.
Shouldn't the president worry more about body armor than body fat?
Instead of calling in Karl Rove to ask him if he'd leaked, W. probably called him in to order him to the gym.
The rest of us may be fixated on the depressing tableau in Iraq, where the U.S. seems to be delivering a fundamentalist Islamic state into the dirty hands of men like Ahmad Chalabi, who conned the neocons into pushing for war, and his ally Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who started two armed uprisings against U.S. troops. It was his militiamen who ambushed Casey Sheehan's convoy in Sadr City.
America has caved on Iraqi women's rights. In fact, the women's rights activists supported by George and Laura Bush may have to leave Iraq.
But, as a former C.I.A. Middle East specialist, Reuel Marc Gerecht, said on "Meet the Press," U.S. democracy in 1900 didn't let women vote. If Iraqi democracy resembled that, "we'd all be thrilled," he said. "I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy."
Yesterday, the president hailed the constitution establishing an Islamic republic as "an amazing process," and said it "honors women's rights, the rights of minorities." Could he really think that? Or is he following the Vietnam model - declaring victory so we can leave?
The main point of writing a constitution was to move Sunnis into the mainstream and make them invested in the process, thereby removing the basis of the insurgency. But the Shiites and Kurds have frozen out the Sunnis, enhancing their resentment. So the insurgency is more likely to be inflamed than extinguished.
For political reasons, the president has a history of silence on America's war dead. But he finally mentioned them on Monday because it became politically useful to use them as a rationale for war - now that all the other rationales have gone up in smoke.
"We owe them something," he told veterans in Salt Lake City (even though his administration tried to shortchange the veterans agency by $1.5 billion). "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."
What twisted logic: with no W.M.D., no link to 9/11 and no democracy, now we have to keep killing people and have our kids killed because so many of our kids have been killed already? Talk about a vicious circle: the killing keeps justifying itself.
Just because the final reason the president came up with for invading Iraq - to create a democracy with freedom of religion and minority rights - has been dashed, why stop relaxing? W. is determined to stay the course on bike trails all over the West.
This president has never had to pull all-nighters or work very hard, because Daddy's friends always gave him a boost when he flamed out. When was the last time Mr. Bush saw the clock strike midnight? At these prices, though, I guess he can't afford to burn the midnight oil.