WORLD

The vacation leader of the free world

PATRICIA TREBLE September 3 2007
WORLD

The vacation leader of the free world

PATRICIA TREBLE September 3 2007

The vacation leader of the free world

PATRICIA TREBLE

When President George W. Bush interrupted his 66th vacation at his beloved Crawford, Texas, ranch to fly north for a summit at Château Montebello with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderón, he temporarily halted his inexorable jaunt toward holiday history. Since his 2001 inauguration, Bush had whiled away 426 full or partial days at his ranch—nearly onefifth of his presidency. Soon Bush is likely to pass Ronald Reagan, who’d relaxed for 436 days by one tally, to become the modern presidential vacationtime record holder.

The arcane Bush trivia come from Mark Knoller, a veteran White House radio correspondent for CBS News. He started his presidential statistical files in the early Clinton years: “I found I wished I knew how many times he had been to California, or how many visits he had made to Camp David. So I started keeping track.” With a zeal more commonly associated with baseball fans, Knoller not only tracks Bush’s personal trips—his 24th and last golf outing was on Oct. 13, 2003—but also keeps carefully backed-up files of Bush’s more serious presidential actions including appearances, speeches, meetings, political fundraising activities and travels—the summit was Bush’s 39th foreign trip and his fourth to Canada. While Knoller points out that Bush can never escape affairs of state, even at Crawford—18 foreign leaders have visited the ranch—it’s also true that Bush’s schedule is usually more jam-packed with cutting brush and mountain biking than reading reports.

Though other news organizations keep similar stats, Knoller is acknowledged to be the leading collector. When the White House challenged his numbers a couple of years ago, the reporter buried them with detail until they conceded he was correct. So what piece of arcana irks him? As a cat person, Knoller says it’s that while Bush often carries his dog Barney off a flight, the presidential feline, India, is “cooped up in a pet carrying case and flies on the backup helicopter with an aide.” M