WASHINGTON – With the financial markets in turmoil, President Bush canceled a planned trip to Alabama and Florida on Thursday to consult with his economic advisers in Washington.
Bush had planned to attend a Republican fundraiser in Jupiter, Fla., and tour a waste facility in Huntsville, Ala. He also was to have attended another fundraiser in Huntsville. Vice President Dick Cheney will attend the Huntsville fundraiser.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said late Wednesday that the president "will continue to work with his economic advisers on the serious challenges confronting U.S. financial markets."
Fratto said, "The president remains focused on taking action to stabilize and strengthen the markets and to restore investor confidence."
The last few weeks have seen enough Wall Street turmoil and corporate collapses to prompt a blitz of federal interventions under Bush's watch. It is the kind of taxpayer-supported help for the private sector that might seem at odds with Bush's conservative, free-market economic philosophy.
But Bush and his economic advisers say the government has stepped in to keep taxpayers from facing the potential of even worse problems.
The White House on Wednesday defended the latest action, an $85 billion emergency loan for insurance giant American International Group Inc. The government gets almost an 80 percent stake in the company, the most far-reaching intervention into the private sector ever for the Federal Reserve.
AIG teetered on the edge of failure because of stresses caused by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the credit crunch that ensued.
"While no one would have liked to have ended up in this situation, you have a government that is willing to lead," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Bush however, was not willing to talk about it.
He has not fielded questions about the economic upheaval this week and even canceled a statement Tuesday. Reporters have tried each day. When one tried to press Bush in the Oval Office on Wednesday, he said he could not hear the question, and then made light of the moment by saying, "I'm old."