Seniors grill Bush

A woman asked President Bush if he thought humans should be implanted with a computer chip containing their medical records _ just like her dog. Bush got a laugh when he naively suggested car buyers know from the outset what they will pay. One man gave Bush unsolicited advice about greenhouse gases and another held his feet to the fire on nuclear proliferation.

Bush was at a retirement community in this Washington suburb to talk about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. But he said he was also willing to answer questions on any subject, and some of the residents threw him curveballs.

“I’m one of the scientists who believes that _ and many of us do _ the greenhouse gases have been caused by us, and that it’s about time that the United States took serious actions on the prevention of further greenhouse gases,” one man told Bush.

“I exactly agree with you, sir, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” the president replied.

He defended his decision to keep the United States out of the Kyoto international treaty that requires reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as “the wrong way to go.” “I do know we can use technologies to achieve exactly that objective,” he said.

Piggybacking on Bush’s call for converting the country to electronic medical record keeping, a woman mentioned that her dog’s medical history is implanted on a canine computer chip. “I bet your dogs have them,” she said.

Bush hemmed a bit. “I don’t know if our dogs _ I don’t think _ we’re not quite that sophisticated yet. Barney might not like it,” he said, referring to one of his Scottish terriers.

After calling the topic an “interesting question” he’d never been presented with, he quickly punted to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. “Maybe it’s time for the secretary to step in,” Bush said.

Another audience member brought up disparities between hospital costs for patients with and without insurance. That got Bush going on a favorite topic of late _ how health care consumers have much less information about the price of services in advance than with other types of purchases.

He got a bit tripped up when making the comparison to vehicle shopping _ something he has not done for years.

“When you go buy a car, you know exactly what they’re going to charge you,” he said, drawing laughs _ and then adjusting his remarks.

“Well, sometimes you don’t know,” he said. “Well, you negotiate with them. Well, they put something on the window that says price.”

Bush did not even get to finish on a softball.

The questioner, referencing a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement Bush reached on this month’s trip to New Delhi that would allow India to continue producing nuclear weapons and has some worried nuclear nonproliferation efforts could be undermined, asked the president to commit to a “no first-use policy” on nuclear weapons.

“I’ll take your words to heart, and think about it. Thank you,” Bush said. “No commitment standing right here, of course.”

© 2006 The Associated Press