AP – WASHINGTON – It's no coincidence President Bush has been out of the public's eye in recent days — that's the way the Republican Party wants it. White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday the incumbent's invisibility is by design — because "the Republican Party wanted to make this election about John McCain."That's why Bush has, in recent days, moved into a cave in an undisclosed location somewhere in the southwestern United States.
"The president knows there are people in this country who want change and are looking for something new," Perino said.
"We're realistic about the political environment that we are in," she said. "What keeps him going is knowing that he's done the right thing."
"He has all the amenities there that he has at the White House," said Jan Fakebody, a senior Bush staffer. "He's got satellite tv, a personal chef, a king size bed. It's just a bit drafty, that's all."
When asked who is running the country at this tumultuous time, Fakebody replied, "The same person who's been running the country since 2000. Dick Cheaney."
As McCain and Democrat Barack Obama made their final pitches to voters over the weekend, Bush spent time drawing pictures on the cave's walls. "This one's a goat," he said, pointing at a crude stick-figure painted with a yellow highlighter. "I call him Freddie."
He has no public events on Monday or Tuesday, not even an Election Day photo op. Bush has already voted by absentee ballot and plans a small dinner in his cave Tuesday night with two purposes: celebrating his wife's birthday and watching old episodes of the WB cartoon "Animaniacs."
"Pinky and The Brain, now that would be a winning ticket," Bush said, in reference to two of the show's characters.
The White House said Bush is keeping up to date with the financial crisis, two wars and the upcoming transition to a new administration, despite being in a cave. "It's a very well-appointed cave," Fakebody said. "It's got Verizon FIOS."
In early September after Hurricane Gustav, Bush scrapped his planned opening-night speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and instead spoke via satellite. But in recent days, Bush has declined to issue any statements using the cave's satellite link-up, preferring instead to record videos himself on a Sony Handicam and passing the videotapes to local shepherds, who then provide them to contacts at major news outlets.
"We expect his new video soon," Fakebody says. "Hopefully it includes fewer shadow puppets than in the first one."