Bush Gets Another Hard Look at the Costs of War

President Bush speaks with Army Sgt. Nicholas McCoy at the Center for the Intrepid, a new Army rehabilitation facility San Antonio.
President Bush speaks with Army Sgt. Nicholas McCoy at the Center for the Intrepid, a new Army rehabilitation facility San Antonio. (By John Davenport -- Associated Press)
By Michael Abramowitz
Monday, November 12, 2007

P resident Bush spent an emotional two hours Thursday at the Center for the Intrepid, a new rehabilitation facility for wounded soldiers at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Such stops have been common for Bush, especially since the scandal last spring at Walter Reed, but the White House allowed reporters unusual access to Bush on his tour through this state-of-the-art facility, giving a more intimate view of the kind of poignant and powerful scenes the president can encounter on such visits.

Bush appeared relaxed and upbeat as he toured the privately funded facility and greeted soldiers who had lost limbs and suffered grievous burns from roadside bombs and other attacks in Iraq. Some of the troops told the president that they are anxious to return to service despite their injuries.

Bush sat down and chatted with a number of soldiers, received a T-shirt bearing the words "Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006" from one badly burned Marine lance corporal and watched two double amputees sitting on giant gym balls play catch with a smaller ball. By the time he had finished the tour, Bush seemed close to tears.

One thing Bush did out of view of the traveling press was participate with some recovering soldiers in a virtual reality game, shooting the enemy with rifles that aimed laser beams at targets in an imaginary neighborhood in Iraq.

"They were making sure a neighborhood was safe," White House press secretary Dana Perino said later.

Asked what Bush's score was, she said, "I think they won."

Black-Tie Athletes

Who knew that baseball star Tom Glavine was French American? But indeed he is, and there he was with his wife Tuesday night at the White House for the black-tie dinner Bush hosted for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Glavine, a newly minted free-agent pitcher, late of the New York Mets, is only the latest big-name jock invited to the White House by Bush, a former owner of baseball's Texas Rangers who seems to prefer the presence of athletes and business types to cultural or intellectual figures.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, golfing legend Arnold Palmer and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel were among the guests at this year's state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II of England. Bush had some of the world's top golfers stop in for dinner when he celebrated his 61st birthday this year, and he held a more intimate dinner in February for a small group of Major League Baseball figures.

Sally McDonough, press secretary for first lady Laura Bush, said the president enjoys the company of athletes and "respects and admires" Glavine.

Germany's First Husband

Joining Bush, the first lady and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bushes' Crawford, Tex., ranch this past weekend was Merkel's husband, Joachim Sauer, a chemistry professor at Berlin's Humboldt University. That's a surprise only because Sauer seldom shows up in public by his wife's side and even skipped her inauguration two years ago as Germany's first female chancellor.

Last year, the German first couple hosted the Bushes over wild boar barbecue in Germany before the G-8 summit in the summer. This time Bush offered his guests hamburgers for lunch. "Obviously for me, as a person who originally came from Hamburg," Merkel tried to joke.

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