On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said that Bush has not taken questions from the press in over seven weeks because he wants to “make sure this election remains fully focused on the two candidates”:
PERINO: If you guys had him in here, almost everything would be geared towards the election, and he is cognizant of that. He wants to make sure that this election remains fully focused on the two candidates. … The President is reluctant to be in a place where there’s going to be a lot of competition for questions that get him involved in the 2008 campaign.
This morning, however, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer argued that Bush is instead simply trying to avoid damaging McCain’s political fortunes:
LAUER: Dana Perino is saying we haven’t heard the President out there answering questions from the press over the last several weeks and months because he doesn’t want to get into campaign politics. … Where do you fall on this?
FLEISCHER: Well remember hasn’t taken questions since early August, Matt — well before this crisis really hit. And I think it does come down to campaign politics. He doesn’t want to get in the middle of the questions that would hurt John McCain more than anyone else.
By his own declaration, Bush is more than willing to inject himself into the 2008 campaign. But as Dee Dee Myers comments in response to Fleischer, “the problem is the President has no credibility. It’s his economic philosophy, his economic team, and I think the White House realizes that and is trying to help by keeping him off the front of the stage.”
Indeed, GOP candidates in congressional races around the nation have distanced themselves from Bush, believing his record could hurt their election chances.