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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Difference Between George W And Obama

Every year, in the week between Christmas and New Year's, I think about
     George W. Bush. It was in that week each year for the eight years I covered
     him as a reporter that he gave me a spectacular gift — and he knew it.
     I started covering the newly elected president in 2000, when I was in my
     30s.  Back then, as a reporter for The Washington Times, we went everywhere
     the president went.   If he went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to give a
     30-minute speech on an airport tarmac, we went.   Up at 4 a.m., an hour-long
     commute to Andrews Air Force Base, in place on the ground hours before
     POTUS landed, and there for hours and hours after he left — sometimes right
     through the evening news so network reporters could file live from the site.
     We also went with the president to Texas every summer — often for a month —
     and every winter, too, over the holidays.
     But here's the thing:  In December, we never left Washington, D.C., until the
     day after Christmas.  Never.  Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, would always
     depart the White House a few days before the holiday and hunker down at
     Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. After a few years, I
     asked a low-level White House staffer why.
     I still remember what she said: "So all of us can be with our families on
     Who was "us"?  Hundreds and hundreds of people, that's who.  Sure, the
     reporters who covered the president, but also dozens and dozens on his
     staff, 100 Secret Service agents, maybe more, and all of those city cops
     required whenever the president is on the move in D.C.
     For me, that one-day delay was huge.  My kids were 6 and 8 years old when
     Mr. Bush took office. When he went home to Prairie Chapel that last time in
     2009, my girl was driving, the boy was 6 foot 1.  But in the meantime, I was
     home for eight Christmas mornings, playing Santa, stoking the fire, mixing
     up hot chocolates.
     That was President Bush. And every year for the past five, I've thought
     about what that meant to me. (By the way, some years, I got holiday duty,
     which meant I was off to Waco, Texas, the day after Christmas. But once
     again, the Bush White House had us covered: A press plane flew out with the
     president, and back then, reporters could pay $100 per family member for
     the plane ride.  So sometimes, the family went along.  For the kids, it was
     an adventure; for me, well, we were all together.)
     All that has changed with President Obama.  No more press plane, for one.
     Reporters are on their own — so taking family is, say, $1,000 a pop.  Not
     likely. And this president would never delay his trip to his island
     getaway.  He's off every year well before Christmas. Hundreds and hundreds
     head off with him, leaving family behind.
     No Christmas at home.  Instead, the Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.
     Nice, but not exactly home.
     Anyway, that's why I think of George W. Bush every year in the week between
     Christmas and New Year's. Probably will till I die.  Thanks, GWB.

     Joseph Curl
Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at and on Twitter @josephcurl.