All that glitters is gold

A White House speechwriter explores the Middle East -- or at least his hotel suite there.

Published January 14, 2008 8:02PM (EST)

Much has been made in this campaign season of the benefits of spending time abroad, and the new White House blog -- no, really! -- gives us a real lesson in all that. It comes in a post from speechwriter Bill McGurn, who is accompanying the president on his Middle East trip and files this report:

"We arrived in Abu Dhabi late Sunday morning, and were surprised to find it was raining," McGurn writes on Trip Notes from the Middle East. "After a lavish lunch, the motorcade took us to the fabled Emirates Palace Hotel. The place looks like something out of a dream . . . my room literally has about as much floor space as my house . . . and the atrium, under a dome said to be as large as St. Paul's in London, is something to behold. The floors are all marble with beautiful inlay, the bathrooms have a giant tub you have to climb up steps to get to, and our hosts have left platters of chocolates, cookies, and dates. The best description is what I hear people whispering: Everything that looks like it's gold, is."

McGurn spends a few paragraphs talking about the process of writing the speech Bush delivered at the hotel Sunday, then returns to the subject at hand:

"Anyway, it's good to have the speech over," he writes. "And there's a nice reward. As a rule, I've found that those times when I'm spending a lot of time in a room and could use the extra space -- like when I'm traveling with my family -- the smaller and more disappointing the accommodations. By contrast, those times when I get a suite the size of a small city, I'm by myself and staying for only a few hours. But I have a small treat tonight. Since I'm not on the list for the official dinner tonight, it leaves me a few free hours that will allow me to become more closely acquainted with all the amenities that a $3 billion hotel has to offer."

Update: Luxury loves company, apparently. In his press pool report, the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva notes that his room at the Emirates Palace, costs "somebody 1595 USD a night" and included amenities such as "a PDA to control all of the entertainment." "The NEC flat screen, I am estimating 60 inches. And a balcony with a view of the arches at the gate to the grounds, sort of L'Arc de Triomphe Vegas-style, lighted last evening in purple. Fine Australian wine yet only Moet et Chandon, no Dom, sits in the minibar."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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