President Bush flashed a bashful smile when troops at Fort Bragg surprised him with an early birthday cake decorated with an American flag this morning. He'd just finished a Fourth of July speech thanking the troops for their work in Iraq.
The president held up the cake for cameras to see. But he looked less amused earlier in the day when a Fort Bragg soldier wished him a happy birthday. "It's not my birthday," he said with a straight face."Thanks for bringing it up."
It's true. It's not the president's birthday. He actually turns 60 in two days, on July 6, but he'll celebrate today at the White House residence. As White House staff and the media watch fireworks a few yards away on the South Lawn, about 150 invited guests will join the first family to celebrate the boomer president's coming of age.
White House officials have billed the party as a low-key celebration with family and close friends, which includes the twins, the president's brother Marvin, and some of his old buddies from his college days at Yale.
If Bush's recent comments are any indication, he is not immune to the anxiety that comes with getting older, even though he's in good company: Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Cher and Sylvester Stallone also turn 60 this year, leading the edge of 78 million baby boomers who are just now entering what was once called the golden years.
But Bush doesn't seem to be treating his impending birthday casually. He has peppered his recent speeches with references to the big day, even calling himself "the ol' president."
Throughout his campaign to reform Social Security, Bush talked about his own looming seniorhood: "Baby boomers like me are getting ready to retire -- see, my retirement age shows up at 2008 -- which is a convenient year."
During a speech last month in Omaha, Neb., the president riffed about the big 6-0 this way. "Getting older by the minute" he told the crowd that had come to hear him talk about immigration.
"I know I'm not supposed to talk about myself, but in a month I'm turning 60," he said to a laughing crowd. "For you youngsters, I want to tell you something: When I was your age, I thought 60 was really old. It's all in your mind. It's not that old, it really isn't."