Bush nearly flattens press corps with erratic bull-dozer driving
Newsweek blogger Holly Bailey reports on a bizarre and troubling incident involving the president of the United States, the media, and heavy machinery:
Does President Bush have it in for the press corps? Touring a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill., the Commander in Chief got behind the wheel of a giant tractor and played chicken with a few wayward reporters. Wearing a pair of stylish safety glasses--at least more stylish than most safety glasses--Bush got a mini-tour of the factory before delivering remarks on the economy. "I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.
I presume that Bailey was at the plant and saw the incident first-hand. She doesn't cite any other sources. The AP confirms that Bush told people to back up because he was about to "crank this sucker up." So far, I can't find a major media report of Bush's visit to the tractor plant that mentions the chaos the president's joyride caused on the ground. If reporters scurried away from Bush's tractor and didn't report the incident, they would be taking self-censorship to a whole new level.
Update: I found another news account that appears to corroborate Bailey's story. According to this piece by Molly Parker of the Peoria Star Journal, Bush's jaunt on the bulldozer was arranged by Karl Rove at the last minute and his driving did scatter reporters:
Before the tour, Rove chatted briefly with Caterpillar executives about whether Bush would drive one of the tractors. Rove reminded them Bush doesn't do much driving on his own these days and asked if Caterpillar's insurance was up to date.
"We figure he'll have a tendency to go to the right," quipped Tim Elder, director of corporate public affairs.
At the end, Bush, dressed in a bright blue shirt and without a tie, did indeed climb inside a "Black Iron Machine" bulldozer.
"I would suggest you move back. I'm about to crank this thing up," he told the gaggle of reporters following him. He moved it to the left and then the right, reporters scattering as he wheeled in their direction.
"I thought you were joking," one reporter yelled to the president. He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
Shakespeare's Sister has photos of Bush's visit to the Peoria plant.
[HT: Michael Hussey]
x-posted at This Modern World.