Weekend open line | Arkansas Blog

Weekend open line

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President Bush is on vacation in Crawford, and we're taking a break to let you have this open line.

Instead of parking here for the whole month, Mr. Bush, who arrived Thursday night, will spend just 10 nights before returning to the White House. During his stay, his aides are taking pains to present Mr. Bush as deeply engaged in world events; on Saturday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive to brief him on the Middle East.

“It basically reflects busy times and a busy schedule,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to Mr. Bush, explaining the abbreviated visit.

It also reflects a political decision made by Mr. Bush’s advisers, and the president himself, to prevent a repeat of the public relations debacle of last August. That month began with highly publicized protests by Ms. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, and ended with the image of the president on vacation while New Orleans drowned, an image that helped start his slide in popularity.

So when summer planning time rolled around this year, the White House was determined to do something different.

“It was a political calculation that his advisers persuaded him that he needed to do, and I think he knew it,” said one Republican with close ties to Mr. Bush, who would discuss internal White House decisions only if not quoted by name. He added, “I don’t think he is resentful or angry or anything; I think he is resigned to it."

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