Bush Takes Monthlong Texas Vacation

By<A HREF="mailto:carter.m.yang@abc.com">Carter M. Yang</A>

W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 3, 2001 -- For the next 30 days, it will be home on the ranch for President Bush.

With his administration 6 months old, Bush is set to shed the confines of the White House and head to his sprawling ranch in Crawford, Texas, to begin a monthlong, outside-the-Beltway retreat.

"I'm headed home to the heartland to listen to the American people and to talk about the values that unite and sustain our country," Bush said in a Rose Garden speech this afternoon.

'A Little Fishing, … A Little Policy'

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters the chief executive was also looking forward to "enjoying a little down time, a little running and a little cedar clearing."

"He'll do a little fishing on the ranch, I'm sure he'll have friends and family over to the ranch, he'll do a little policy, he'll keep up with events," Fleischer added.

Why is the commander in chief spending four weeks in a small central Texas town outside Waco?

"I think it is so important for a president to spend some time away from Washington," he told the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree last week.

Since taking office 196 days ago, Bush has spent plenty of leisurely days away from Washington, including 23 at his Crawford ranch, 36 at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and a four-day weekend at his family's compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater says Bush showed the same affection for vacations when he was governor of Texas.

“George Bush was religious about wanting to take time off," said Slater.

Former President Ronald Reagan, who made frequent visits to his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., while in office, said the commander in chief never really goes off the clock, no matter where he is.

"Presidents don't get vacations — they just get a change of scenery," he said in 1985. "You're still president … The job goes with you."

Bush expressed similar sentiments as he vacationed in Kennebunkport in July.

"The amazing thing about this job … is that the job seems to follow you around," he told reporters.

'Working Vacation,' Bush Aides Insist

The president and his aides call the upcoming Crawford vacation a "home-to-the-heartland visit" and have dubbed the sprawling 1,600-acre ranch the "Texas White House."

Fleischer insisted today the month away from the White House would not be all rest and relaxation.

"It's going to be a working vacation — it's going to include parts work and parts vacation," he said, noting that Bush would receive daily intelligence briefings, except on Sundays, and would travel for two days out of every week for various public events.

"He will be based in Crawford, Texas, but will, from there, travel to the rest of America to meet with a wide variety of Americans to listen to their concerns," Fleischer said.

White House officials said the president planned to help build a house at a Habitat for Humanity event in nearby Waco next week, followed by trips to Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states later in the month.

Aides to Bush say he may also make a much-anticipated political announcement while at the ranch.

The president has been wrestling with whether or not to allow federal funding for controversial embryonic stem-cell research. Doctors say the research hold the promise for debilitating diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's, but opponents say the studies are immoral because they use cells derived from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.

The president's retreat is timed to coincide with the August congressional recess, when lawmakers head home to their districts. That mass exodus got under way this afternoon.

"Members of Congress are going home as well," Bush pointed out today.

A monthlong retreat is not without precedent, but no president has been away from the White House for a full 30 days since Richard Nixon. When he returns from Crawford in September, Bush will have spent nearly 40 percent of his days as president at his ranch or at Camp David.

But presidential historian Michael Beschloss says even if the trend continues, it will likely have little impact on Bush's presidency.

"There's almost no relationship between the number of hours you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office and how good a president you are," he said.

ABCNEWS' Josh Gerstein and Terry Moran contributed to this report from the White House.

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