WASHINGTON — Unaware he was being recorded, President Bush at a Houston fundraiser last week compared Wall Street to a drunk with a hangover and cracked jokes about the ailing housing market.
"There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk — that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it's got a hangover," Bush said at a private fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Pete Olson. "The question is: How long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments?"
The president's blunt remarks were a sharp departure from the more measured tones he uses publicly to discuss the economy and national housing market collapse.
Economists in large part blame the current mortgage foreclosure crisis on complex financial instruments devised by Wall Street after Congress deregulated the banking industry a decade ago.
The jocular tone Bush used to describe a serious subject also underscores the pitfalls of being candid in an age of tiny camera phones.
News reporters were prohibited from the Olson event in River Oaks last Friday. The short video clip, apparently made by an attendee at the fundraiser, was obtained by KTRK-TV in Houston.
"And then we got a housing issue, not in Houston, and evidently, not in Dallas, because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today," Bush said, to laughter.
On the video clip, which is posted on YouTube, Facebook and the ABC affiliate's Web site, a supporter can be heard asking Bush about Crawford.
"I like Crawford," Bush said, to more laughter. "Unfortunately after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I'm now no longer the decision maker."
Of their house hunt, Bush said amid laughter, "We've been on the government pay for 14 years now. It goes slow."
Before friendly audiences, especially in Texas, Bush tends to be more relaxed and candid than he appears at the White House.
Even so, Bush, a Harvard MBA, has been meticulous in recent months about guarding his rhetoric on the economy and the markets, and White House officials also are mindful of how their words could affect the markets.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who was on the Houston trip with Bush last week, said he never heard Bush use that specific comparison before. But he said the president's overall message is consistent.
Yes, Bush the Lesser's overall message is consistant: he can't take anything seriously, and while people are losing their jobs and houses, he's joking around about buying a new house.