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http://www.worldwire.org/postpages/newspics/bushgolf.jpgBush Begins Month-Long Vacation as Preparations are Made for War
President Bush has left for another month-long August vacation at his 1,600 acre Texas ranch. "In times of financial crisis and international crisis, the public looks for hands-on, confident leadership," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association. "What we're going to see is every-other-day photo ops from the ranch." In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll last week, 44 percent of respondents agreed that four weeks is "too much time to spend away from the White House," This year's vacation is just slightly shorter than last year's, which tied a modern record for presidential absence from the White House held by Richard Nixon at 30 days.
Administration sensitive about Bush `vacation'
The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON- (KRT) - As President Bush prepares for another August in Crawford, aides are quick to argue that this is not - repeat not - the "month-long vacation." that is frequently reported.
For one thing, it's a little less than a month: Bush leaves for Texas on Tuesday and returns by Labor Day, Sept. 2.
For another, Bush plans to spend about half those days at public events, either pushing Republican candidates or speaking out on the economy and the war on terrorism, two issues that have come to define his presidency.
The president "is going to bring the White House with him to Crawford," said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer.
White House aides are particularly sensitive to appearances this August, saying that critics distorted the nature of his Crawford vacation last year, one that included major decisions on stem cell research and military policy.
It was also during that month that Bush received a briefing that raised the possibility of terrorists hijacking airplanes, as happened Sept. 11. Bush aides angrily denied suggestions that the ranch setting somehow reduced the president's focus, calling the warning very general in nature.
But the length of time at the ranch this year has provided an opening for some of the president's critics.
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe recently mocked Bush's retreat to Crawford "with his dog Barney, walking around the cedar trees."
Late night comedian David Letterman devoted one of his lists to the "Top Ten Signs President Bush Needs A Vacation." (Number 9: Asking al-Qaida not to do anything until the end of August).
White House officials were particularly riled by comments from Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association. He said the Crawford trip sends "the wrong signal."
"In times of financial crisis and international crisis, the public looks for hands-on, confident leadership," Glendening told the USA Today editorial board last month. "What we're going to see is every-other-day photo ops from the ranch."
Bush aides begged to differ. They said the president would visit at least 15 cities in 11 states over the next four weeks, which they described as Bush's "return to the heartland." Bush will also host an economic forum in Waco and will welcome Mexico President Vicente Fox to the ranch.
When all is said and done, Bush will probably have about two weeks of actual vacation time - "like most people," said Fleischer. He ascribed the criticism to "the silliness of Washington."
"What I enjoy pointing out to everybody is presidents are entitled to take vacation," Fleischer said. "And people in Washington, I suppose, are entitled to take potshots."
Some political analysts agreed with Fleischer, noting that Congress is also taking August off. Stephen Hess, who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, said those presidents took long vacations and no one said anything about it.
Hess attributed criticism of presidential vacations to the "sourness, cynicism, and skepticism that just covers politics" from both practitioners and the press.
"It's such a phony issue," he said. "It really is. I mean, what is not being done that otherwise would be done?"
Presidential historian Robert Dallek, a critic of Bush, said his reputation for being less-than-interested in the details of government is reinforced by the length of time he likes to spend out of Washington.
"There's a feeling that is where he would prefer to be, on his ranch," Dallek said.
In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll last week, 44 percent of respondents agreed that four weeks is "too much time to spend away from the White House," while 53 percent disagreed with that statement.
White House aides acknowledged that attacks on presidential vacations have been a bi-partisan exercise. Republicans mocked President Clinton because his pollsters asked about possible vacation spots.
Democrats got after Bush's father for his vacations in tony Kennebunkport, saying he seemed to care more racing his cigarette boat than revving up the economy.
While the younger Bush spent this past weekend at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, his Texas vacation won't begin until later this week.
On Monday, Bush will travel to Pittsburgh for a variety of events before returning to Washington. He will undergo a physical and sign free trade legislation Tuesday before heading to the ranch that afternoon. He will visit Mississippi for a fundraiser on Wednesday, and then plans to take the rest of the week off.
As Bush prepares again for August in Crawford, his aides have gone out of their way to describe it as a "working vacation." Some said they were doing so because they believe critics and reporters distorted White House plans of a year ago.
While that too was defined as a month-long vacation, Bush spent part of his first week outlining a long-awaited policy on federal help for stem cell research. Later that August, he appointed Gen. Richard B. Myers as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In addition to hanging out at his ranch, Bush will spend this August talking about what aides called three types of security: financial security, national security and homeland security. He also has education and free trade events planned.
Reports about corporate corruption and the sliding stock market inspired an Aug. 13 economic forum at Baylor University that will feature Cabinet members, business people, small investors, union members and ethicists.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled to visit the ranch the week of Aug. 19 to discuss the war on terrorism and military reform, aides said. Immigration and trade will likely be on the agenda when Mexican President Fox comes calling the next week.
And of course, Bush could be called to act on breaking news - a distinct possibility given the war, unrest in the Middle East and the volatility in the stock market.
Said one aide: "Most people know that when you're president of the United States, you're 24/7."
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