By DALE McFEATTERS
President Bush concluded his visit to the White House press corps’ farewell to the old briefing room with a heartfelt, "For those of you going to Crawford, saddle up!"
And late that afternoon he was indeed at his beloved Texas ranch. The man does love his vacations there.
Bush has spent more than a year of his presidency at the ranch. Last Aug. 19, he broke Ronald Reagan’s record of 335 days for America’s most vacationed president and went on to take the longest presidential vacation in 36 years.
The press, the comedians and the Democrats poked fun at his generous amounts of leisure time, but the truth is, the American people take a relaxed attitude toward their presidents’ vacations. And the awesome White House communications apparatus ensures that the chief executive is never really out of touch.
In his first year in office, Bush established the pattern of spending the month of August in Crawford and, riding high in the polls, was able to do so with little comment — until last August.
Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans on a Monday, but Bush didn’t return to Washington to lead the relief effort until Wednesday, doing a flyover of the ruined city on the way, grudgingly, it seemed, cutting short his stay at the ranch by two days.
Katrina seemed to underscore a seemingly endless run of bad luck in his second term, reflected in record-low approval ratings. And bad poll numbers mean less vacation time.
Plans call for the president to stay at his ranch just 10 days.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)