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Bush Is Off to Ranch-- for a Working Vacation


WASHINGTON — Like much of official Washington, President Bush is about to leave for his summer vacation. The White House is emphasizing that it will not be all fun and no work.

Administration officials clearly are sensitive to any criticism that Bush's 25-day break at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, is too long, given the economy and the threat of terrorism.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Wednesday: "You know, Washington is just a silly town sometimes where people don't let a good man have a vacation without having to make more of it than it is."

Besides, Fleischer said, it isn't really a vacation: White House staff will be shuttling into Crawford for meetings, the president will visit 12 cities on short trips from the 1,600-acre ranch, and at least one foreign visitor--President Vicente Fox of Mexico--is expected to drop by.

Just as presidential vacations in August are routine, so too are flaps in Washington on whether the vacation is excessive.

President Reagan regularly spent much of August at his ranch outside Santa Barbara. Bush's father made several trips each summer to his vacation home in Maine, including an annual vacation that often stretched to three weeks in August. And President Clinton spent two-week holidays on Martha's Vineyard.

Just as he did last year during a 27-day summer stay at the ranch, Bush is planning several days of travel beyond Crawford. On these trips, he will give policy speeches and headline political events. His plans include a three-day West Coast swing in late August.

Bush also is summoning roughly half his Cabinet, other officials, business executives, union members and others to an economic forum in Waco, near Crawford, on Aug. 13.

Fleischer said that "when you subtract out all the days the president's traveling and the days that the president's going to welcome foreign leaders to Crawford or the days that he's going to have an economic forum in Waco, fact is, he's probably going to be down to about two weeks [of vacation], just like everybody else, like most people."

Bush leaves for Texas on Tuesday--one day after he returns to the White House from a weekend visit at his parents' summer home in Maine.

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