"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."
-- President Bush, speaking Friday before kicking off his monthlong vacation in Texas
Bush had already spent more than 60 days of his young presidency at various vacation spots -- his Crawford, Texas, ranch, Camp David and the Bush family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine -- when he left Washington Saturday for a monthlong summer break at his ranch. But after his last week in Washington, many White House watchers say that he earned the break.
After two solid months of being kicked around on the Hill by Democrats advancing their agenda through the Senate, and GOP moderates questioning the president's plans in the House, Bush flipped his fortunes late last week with quick House wins on a compromise patients' rights bill and his long-dormant energy policy. He also rebounded in public opinion polls after a midsummer slump.
Republicans who spent June grumbling over Bush's lack of leadership are now relieved and happy with the administration's accomplishments during its first six months. The president won big and early on the tax cut, and he managed to push through his education plan. With the tricky issues of campaign finance reform and patients' rights neutralized, the White House is said to be looking forward to highlighting Bush's "compassionate" side when he returns from Texas, concentrating on values-based initiatives like his faith-based charity plan.
Meanwhile, Democrats who had thought that the president's clumsy maneuvers would cripple Republicans in the coming election cycle are looking for an alternative strategy. In the Senate, Democrats have signaled that they're not willing to roll over on what they consider an ill-considered patients' rights bill, loudly complaining that Bush's compromise shows that he is more concerned about protecting healthcare companies from lawsuits than in protecting patients from bad care.
And don't miss Bush's team suffering from a White House salary shortage. Reports indicate that the president has reduced White House pay by more than $80,000 annually compared with Clinton administration salary levels, though he has retained the same number of workers.
Monday schedule: Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, his 26th day there since he was elected.
This day in Bush history
Aug. 6, 1988: The Associated Press reported that the GOP was guardedly optimistic that the upcoming party convention could revive the political prospects of Vice President and Republican presidential candidate George Bush. "This is the first time that the vice president has been first and center in front of the American people explaining his own beliefs, priorities and goals," said Lee Atwater, his campaign manager. "Conventions are transforming events and we're convinced the more the American people know about George Bush ... the more they will like him." Party strategists predicted that anticipation of Bush's vice presidential pick would increase interest in the convention, and hoped to get within 10 points of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in public opinion polls by the convention's end.
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Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert , Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Alicia Montgomery, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York
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