Reporter's Notebook: White House Casual Friday

It's easy to see why Kennebunkport, Maine, has long been a valued retreat for the Bush family. This quaint New England town seems a million miles away from the sauna of D.C. The temperate climate in Maine is a welcome relief from the heat (political and otherwise) of the capital.

Air Force One's wheels had scarcely touched down, and the president was out on his dad's speedboat with Bush 41 at the helm. Together they skimmed across the waves and offered a friendly wave to the long lenses of the press photographers parked far away on the shore.

The heavily armed protection squad that shadows Fidelity III has a job that would be the envy of any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine stuck in Iraq. It's 111 degrees in Baghdad today. In Kennebunkport, you need a sweater.

Administration staffers also clearly enjoy this break, and there is a friendly détente between them and the White House press corps. Perhaps that's because everyone brought their families along. Perhaps it's just easier to be civil to one another when you're all wearing T-shirts and hiking boots instead of power ties and suits.

Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino brought along the ultimate ice breaker. Her dog Henry, a Hungarian vizla, is the toast of the press room. Today as Perino gave the morning briefing from the podium, Henry dozed at her side.

Henry did not get to travel on Air Force One. Presumably that's a privilege reserved for the Secret Service dogs. And, of course, for Barney. Instead he and Perino's husband endured a nine hour drive in heavy traffic. And he seems delighted to be here.

That said, even he does not let down his partisan guard. Thursday the Perinos demonstrated some of his tricks.

"Henry, what do you think of John Kerry?" Perino's husband asked. Perino then quietly slipped off her shoe, and Henry immediately dove for it and gripped it in clenched teeth.

The shoe was a flip flop.

Clearly it's a trick they've done many times before. But it's interesting to note: It's one they couldn't do at the White House. Under the new dress code now in force there, flip flops are banned.

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