Friday, August 10, 2007
The Vacation President
Aug. 9, 2007, 9:01PM
Bush on track to become the vacation president
By JULIE MASON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
President Bush tries to set an example for Americans whenever he can, in terms of physical fitness, faith, optimism and a certain overall moral rectitude. He also sets an excellent example on taking vacation.
On Thursday, Bush left for a weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, and his family's summer compound, Walker's Point. On Monday, he heads to his Crawford retreat, where he has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper.
Never a fan of Washington's more cosmopolitan pleasures, Bush will be in Central Texas for about two weeks, with an overnight trip to Ottawa to meet with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.
At a White House press conference Thursday, Bush appeared to be already inhabiting his vacation mode, shedding the businesslike, sometimes grim demeanor he's had of late to slouch against the podium and be avuncular.
He gamely joked and mugged with reporters, at one point raising two fists in a boxing stance to illustrate what not to do in a photo op with the president of Iran.
"You don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out, you know?" Bush said " 'OK, put up your dukes.' That's an old boxing expression."
Bush's August sojourn will be his 65th trip to Crawford, according to Knoller.
The 1,600-acre ranch has proved a durable haven for Bush, who often disappears into its varied landscapes for days or weeks at a time without public appearances. He has an attractive stone house, shaded swimming pool, miles of rugged bike trails and law enforcement at every entry point keeping people out.
"I fell in love with it the minute I saw it," Bush said of his ranch in 2001. "I like being out here. I like spending a lot of time outside."
The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.
Even so, this year's August vacation for Bush is a contrast to previous years such as 2005, when he dragged out vacation in Texas to five weeks. That was also the year Bush remained on vacation immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Vice President Dick Cheney generally takes August off, often heading to Wyoming or coastal Maryland. Congress left last weekend and is gone until Sept. 4. The Iraqi parliament is taking August off, too.
Still, all this governmental time off is more than most Americans are taking. A recent survey by Yahoo Hot Jobs found nearly half of American workers did not take all of their vacation days last year.
Bush, on his 10th visit to Kennebunkport as president (according to Knoller), is scheduled for lunch Saturday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Indeed, on the issue of vacation, at least, Bush is much like a pleasure-seeking Frenchman. According to Expedia.com, French workers get about 39 days off a year and generally take all but one.