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Bush Knows Well the Hazards of the Trail

By Peter Baker
Monday, December 10, 2007

P resident Bush has forsworn any more commentary on the election to succeed him, at least until the nominations are settled. But he seems more than a little wistful as all these senators and governors travel the campaign trail without him.

"I'm going to miss the campaigning," he said at his news conference last week. "I like campaigning. If somebody ever says they don't like campaigning, they're not telling you -- either that, or they're a lousy candidate. I mean, it's fun. I enjoy it. I enjoy the crowds. I enjoy the noise. I enjoy giving that message. I enjoy the competition. And, yes, I'm going to miss it."

Warming to his topic, Bush began reminiscing about his first run for the presidency. "What I'm not going to miss is what we all, some of us, went through in 2000, which was getting out on the airplane and having my friend Ca ndy Crowley pass a virus around," he laughed. "I got a respiratory infection; so did half the press corps. They got off the plane; I didn't get to get off the plane. And it was tough; it was a tough experience."

At that point, the president noticed CNN's Ed Henry in the front row of the briefing room, looking a little mortified on behalf of his colleague. "Look, I'm not dissing Candy," Bush quickly added. "I said, 'My friend.' Look, it can happen to the best of them, you know."

Intriguing. So we e-mailed our friend, Crowley, to see what she remembered. She got back to us in between CNN live shots from Iowa, where she's covering a new generation of would-be presidents.

"I got very sick with something -- though I demand an NIE report before agreeing it was viral," she wrote, referring to a National Intelligence Estimate. "In any case, I was sick enough that the president of CNN at the time, Rick Kaplan, ordered me off the trail and into a very expensive hotel for soup and tea til I got well. And a doctor became involved!

"It is also true that a number of people on the plane came down with 'it' including Bush. I believe the name Typhoid Candy was used at some point. I have maintained however that just because u are the first to come down with something doesn't mean you're the carrier, right? Paging Dr. Gupta. In any case, Bush definitely held me responsible (in a kidding way I think) -- but I mean, can that guy hold a grudge or what?"

Six Overseas Trips for Bush in 2008

If all that campaign travel could take a toll, the president is in for another intense year on the road in 2008 -- only, instead of Iowa and New Hampshire, he'll be jetting off to Bucharest and Beijing and everywhere in between. Like any second-term president in his final year, Bush plans an extensive schedule of foreign travel before leaving office, including at least six overseas trips.

Shortly after the start of the new year, he will head off to the Middle East for his first visit to Israel since becoming president, as well as for other stops in the region. Within weeks of his return, he plans to head to Africa, where he has promoted policies combating HIV-AIDS and malaria. He will have summits in Romania in the spring, Japan in the summer and Peru in the fall, and he also plans to hit the Summer Olympics in China.

No word on whether Crowley is coming along.

Perino's 'Missile Crisis' Confession

Still looking for that last-minute Christmas gift for White House press secretary Dana Perino? May we recommend a gift certificate for the forthcoming book on the Cuban Missile Crisis by our colleague Michael Dobbs, "One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War," due out next summer?

Appearing on National Public Radio's light-hearted quiz show "Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me," which aired over the weekend, Perino got into the spirit of things and told a story about herself that she had previously shared only in private: During a White House briefing, a reporter referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis -- and she didn't know what it was.

"I was panicked a bit because I really don't know about . . . the Cuban Missile Crisis," said Perino, who at 35 was born about a decade after the 1962 U.S.-Soviet nuclear showdown. "It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I'm pretty sure."

So she consulted her best source. "I came home and I asked my husband," she recalled. "I said, 'Wasn't that like the Bay of Pigs thing?' And he said, 'Oh, Dana.' "

Administration's Phrase of the Week

Bush and his advisers like to say they don't pay attention to the polls. But evidently they do pay attention to the poles. And no, not the ones in Warsaw. The most commonly used line last week after the new intelligence report concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003?

¿ National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a briefing Monday: "As we have said, weapons-grade uranium is the long pole in the tent for a nuclear weapon."

¿ Bush, at Tuesday's news conference: "The most difficult aspect of developing a weapons program, or as some would say, the long pole in the tent, is enriching uranium."

¿ Vice President Cheney, to the Politico on Wednesday: "The long pole in the ten t in terms of developing nuclear weapons, traditionally, historically, has been developing fissile material, either highly enriched uranium or plutonium."

Size of Gillespie's Pay Cut

Looks like Ed Gillespie took a bit of a pay cut to come on board this year as Bush's new counselor. A disclosure form shows he made nearly $1.3 million in salary and bonus in the previous 18 months at his consulting and public affairs firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates. His annual government salary is $168,000. The form, obtained by the Associated Press, reports that Gillespie has accumulated a fortune estimated to be between $7.86 million and $19.4 million -- not bad for a former Capitol Hill aide who co-founded his lobbying shop in 2000.

White House Promotions

Since the White House doesn't pay as well as Quinn Gillespie, Bush instead is handing out lots of promotions as Christmas approaches. The president last week named Charles P. Blahous III, who led his Social Security overhaul commission, as the new deputy director of the National Economic Council; Gordon Johndroe, the National Security Council's press secretary, was promoted from special assistant to the president to deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary, while keeping his NSC duties.

John M. Herrmann II was promoted from NSC director for international trade and investment to NSC senior director for international trade, energy and the environment. Sally McDonough Niemiec, the first lady's press secretary, was given the additional title of special assistant to the president. And David Sherzer, a special projects coordinator, was made special assistant to the president for strategic initiatives and external affairs.

Quote of the Week

"Unless I wanted to be single. I mean, my wife -- it would be over."

-- Former White House counselor Dan Bartlett, explaining to Texas Monthly why he will not go back into presidential politics.

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