Whiff of reality

February 07, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

GOV. ROY ROMER of Colorado contributed a welcome whiff of reality to an otherwise sanitized, stage-managed meeting at the White House last week between President Bush and a group of governors. Mr. Romer, apparently venting feelings shared by other Democratic governors, spurned protocol and actually talked back to the president about his budget proposals.

"The easiest and cheapest trick in the world," complained spokesman Marlin Fitzwater on Tuesday, "is to be rude to the president to try to get into the news."

Rude? C'mon, Marlin.

Mr. Bush's session with the governors, in Washington for the winter conclave of the National Governors Association, was more than a photo opportunity. The president promoted his economic-stimulus program in introductory remarks, after which the press was to be escorted from the room. Governor Romer, however, asked that journalists stay and hear what he and other Democrats thought about the Bush package.

Governor Romer was critical of it -- surprise! -- charging that it had accounting "gimmicks" and that its defense cuts ($50 billion over five years) might be too small.

"Do you want it to be $100 billion?" Mr. Bush asked in response. "And if so, what bases do you want to close, what areas do you want to shut down, what weapon systems do you want to knock off right now? . . . Or do you want to lay people off?"

And so substance and controversy had replaced the false note of harmony sounded by the White House -- thanks, mostly, to the skunk-like assertiveness of Governor Romer. He is one of the many partisan worthies who help sustain America's pungent political atmosphere.

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