WASHINGTON – With little explanation, President Bush on Tuesday scrapped a statement he planned to give on the tumultuous financial markets, abandoning any press coverage of his meeting with key economic advisers as more developments roiled Wall Street.
As announced by the White House, Bush was scheduled to make comments to a pool of reporters after huddling with a key financial working group led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Its members include Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other key government figures in the field of commerce.
Yet after the session began, the White House told the press never mind. Spokesman Tony Fratto said only: "We decided it would be best to limit public comment about markets today." He declined to offer any explanation about why limiting Bush comment would be best, or why on this particular day.
The meeting went on as planned.
After the session, White House press secretary Dana Perino offered only a one-sentence description of the session. She confirmed that Bush had been briefed by his working group on financial markets and said the president appreciated "their work to strengthen and stabilize the markets."
Bush's sudden no-comment came on a day when the turmoil on Wall Street came to seize the presidential campaign.
In a blitz of interviews, Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Tuesday blamed Wall Street's financial turmoil on unchecked corporate greed. His Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, dismissed McCain's call for a high-level commission to study the economic crisis as "passing the buck."
Meanwhile, Wall Street ended another chaotic day with a big gain, ending up 141, partly recovering from a horrendous day. The Dow Jones industrials on Monday slid 500 points in their worst point drop since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Investors remain worried that financial sector troubles are far from over.
Beyond canceling his statement, Bush twice brushed off chances on Tuesday to comment on the market conditions on many people's minds.
Touring Hurricane Ike recovery efforts in Texas, he declined to answer a question about the financial markets in Houston. Then in Galveston, a reporter shouted a question about the teetering state of insurance giant American International Group Inc., the latest Wall Street worry.
"We're here talking about the people of Galveston, Texas," he said tersely. Regardless of topic, the president often opts not to answer shouted questions.
The White House said that Bush's comments of a day earlier still held. He told reporters on Monday that financial market adjustments can be "painful," but reiterated his standard message — that in the long run, capital markets are resilient and the economy will bounce back.