At Christ­mas, Bush was Santa, Obama is Scrooge

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

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 that 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 late 30s. Back then, as a reporter for The Wash­ing­ton Times, we went ev­ery­where the pres­i­dent went. If he went to Char­lotte, N.C., to give a 30-minute speech on an air­port tar­mac, we went. Up at 4 a.m., an hour­long com­mute to An­drews Air Force Base, in place on the ground hours be­fore the Pres­i­dent of The United States (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 the pres­i­den­tial re­treat at Camp David, Md.

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 Christ­mas.”

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, a hun­dred Se­cret Ser­vice agents, maybe more, and all of those 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 when 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 last 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 cov­ered the White House and pol­i­tics for a decade for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is now ed­i­tor of the Drudge Re­port. He can be reached at and on Twit­ter @josephcurl.


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