The “Western White House”

September 5, 2008

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Every year since he took office in 2001, President George W. Bush has taken a summer vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, a small town that has come to identify itself as the “Western White House.” This year was different, though. Only once during his 13-day vacation in Crawford did Bush appear before the news media and only once did he use Texas as a base to make a daytrip. The president was rarely seen, even though his name and face is everywhere in town. Crawford brimmed with White House personnel, Secret Service agents and members of the media even as Bush remained out of sight.

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It made me think, what will it be like for Crawford when Bush leaves office next year and life returns to some sense of normal?

I took the opportunity to explore the town a little bit, as it was only my second visit. I did, in fact, find images of the president everywhere — in life-sized cardboard cutouts, hot sauce bottles, coasters, mugs and glasses. There were even bobble head dolls, paper dolls and action figures. I found a town that was very proud to have Bush as their neighbor, but a little tired of the traveling circus that comes with him. I was told that the mayor never gives interviews and the manager of the local coffee shop didn’t want to talk to me either.

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Thankfully, the owner of a local souvenir shop was happy to chat about her town and her famous neighbor. Interestingly, she hoped Bush may consider coaching a local baseball team after he leaves the Oval Office. For me, the sentiment was a nice little surprise and a measure of just how much affection and even accessibility the people of Crawford feel for a man who’s often there, but not really there.

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To view the audio slideshow, click here.

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