Is it really “fantastic,” Mr. President?

President Bush’s avowed dedication to spreading democracy worldwide is inspiring. And much as some people hate to admit it, it was his decision to oust Saddam Hussein that enabled the beginnings of democracy we witnessed in Iraq January 30.

But when Bush starts talking about domestic policy– such as his misbegotten plan to establish private Social Security accounts– he manages to bring me down to earth with a nasty bump. By word and deed, he constantly reminds me that despite his vaunted rapport with “ordinary folks,” he can be remarkably oblivious (or insensitive) to their problems– at least the ones that don’t fit with his comfortable pro-business outlook.

The Washington Post reported on a recent Presidential visit to Nebraska to promote his Social Security plan.

In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, “I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.”

“Fantastic,” the president exclaims, and he tells her she has “the hardest job in America, being a single mom.”

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems “uniquely American” and “fantastic.” He asks her if she gets any sleep.

Now Bush’s first “fantastic” was certainly an unfortunate slip of the tongue– obviously he doesn’t think it’s fantastic that Mornin’s son is mentally challenged. But does he really think it’s also “fantastic” that she works three jobs? I suspect Bush’s economic worldview is such that it would barely occur to him that a single mother might prefer not to have to work three jobs to provide for herself and her children– that she might desperately want to find one job with decent pay and benefits that would allow her to spend more time with her kids, but is unable to do so.

Bush may be closer to the truth when he says that Mornin’s situation is “uniquely American.” But I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of.