George W. Bush is an idiot.
Last week, he was photographed driving around his ranch in his pickup, and he didn’t have his seat belt on.
The law on the matter is clear: Bush had every legal right to do so.
Texas, like every other state but my own New Hampshire, has a mandatory seat belt law. But that law — like pretty much every other motor vehicle law — does not reach on to private property.
One can drive around in an unregistered, uninspected, uninsured vehicle at any speed one likes, with as many people in the vehicle, with no seat belts, drunk off your ass, without a license as long as one stays on private property. And Bush did not venture off his Crawford ranch.
But there’s a difference between “legal” and “right.”
Bush, like it or not, is not just anyone. He is not a private citizen. He is the President of the United States, and that is a 24/7/365 obligation until January 20, 2009. As such, he has absolutely no right to place himself in unnecessary physical danger. He owes the American people his continuing health and survival. He took the oath of office and promised to serve us for the full length of his term of office, and doing stupid crap like this is a violation of the spirit of that oath.
Even his fiercest detractors should agree with me that Bush should buckle up. If they don’t at first, let me just say three simple words:
President Dick Cheney.
I’ve said — far too often to count — that I am a seat belt militant, while simultaneously arguing against seat belt laws. But I think that public officials — especially high-ranking ones, like Bush and New Jersey’s Goveror Corzine — have an obligation beyond that of private citizens to avoid doing such plainly stupid things like this.
I’ll repeat it: Bush did absolutely nothing illegal last week. But he did do something stupid, and it’s coming out that he routinely does this.
I think it’s time he got a good ass-chewing from his wife or mother on this, though.