Tales from the Trail

George W. Bush starting to emerge from cone of silence

George W. Bush is slowly starting to emerge from a self-imposed cone of silence that he has generally adhered to since leaving Washington for Texas when he turned over the presidency to Barack Obama.

BASEBALL/President No. 43 gave a lecture at the University of Texas in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday and spoke before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 people. All this is according to the Tyler newspaper.

Bush talked up a book he has written about major decisions he made as president, “Decision Points,” which is to be published on Nov. 9. The author will be doing a number of major interviews surrounding the publication of his memoir, including with a Facebook fan.

“This will come as a shock to some people in our country who didn’t think I could read a book, much less write one,” he joked.

And he does miss some things about the White House.

“I miss being pampered. I miss Air Force One. I miss being commander-in-chief of an awesome group of (people),” he said.

from Photographers' Blog:

Destination: Afghanistan

It all started out with a phone call from Reuters News Pictures Washington Editor In Charge Jim Bourg on Thursday night informing me there was a secret Presidential trip leaving on Saturday to an undisclosed destination which Reuters would like me to travel with the president on. I was told that this was very secretive and that I was not to mention it to anyone and that no details were available yet. I had been with President Obama on his secret trip to Baghdad last year, so it was pretty easy to figure out that the destination this time might be Afghanistan, a trip which had been highly anticipated since Obama became president 15 months ago. I was to expect to be contacted directly by the White House for a meeting to discuss the details. But I was to "open" the White House as the first Reuters photographer arriving there on Friday morning at 7am, my scheduled shift, and to go about my day as planned acting as if everything was normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

That afternoon I was called in to meet with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in his office at 4pm, along with some of the other members of the 14 person media travel pool who would be going on the secret trip aboard Air Force One.

We were given a schedule of events and were sworn to secrecy. I headed home to pack and test out the BGAN satellite phone I had been provided by Reuters for the trip.

Senate gives Obama Christmas present and then he gets Hawaiian holiday

How much better could it get?

President Barack Obama won a hard-fought victory on his signature domestic issue — healthcare reform — first thing in the morning with the Senate vote and then he left the frozen tundra of Washington, D.C., (we’re talking about the weather) for the balmy tropics of Hawaii. OBAMA/

A sweet start to the Christmas holidays for the first family.

Air Force One landed at Hickam Air Force Base on the island of Oahu (even some of the Secret Service agents on the ground were in Hawaiian shirts) and everyone in the first family was greeted with the traditional lei around their necks.

Then it was off to their Kailua home, past lush green rolling hills, with gawkers stopping to take pictures, wave, call someone, flash the “hang loose” sign and essentially give the Obamas a warm welcome.

The First Draft: Could Obama’s Olympic sprint be a preview of a Copenhagen climate trip?

THAILAND/OK, so President Barack Obama’s lightning jaunt to Copenhagen last week was less than successful. Even with Oprah along, the Cheerleader-in-Chief couldn’t clinch the deal for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. It happens.

But now that he knows the way to Denmark, might the American president consider arguing the U.S. case at international climate meetings in Copenhagen in December? The White House said he might, if other heads of state showed up.

“Right now you’ve got a meeting that’s set up for a level not at the head of state level,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One last week. “If it got switched, we would certainly look at coming.”

First Draft: Air Force One’s Big Apple photo op

USA-POLITICS/No matter what kind of day you’re having, it’s probably not as bad as the one Louis Caldera had yesterday. Caldera is director of the White House Military Office, and he approved what might well be one of the most criticized photo op choices of all time: a low-level flyover of Manhattan by a plane often used to transport the president as Air Force One.

Caldera said federal authorities informed the appropriate officials in New York and New Jersey beforehand, but many New Yorkers were instantly reminded of the 911 attacks when they saw the blue and white passenger plane flying by their skyline, trailed by an F-16 fighter jet carrying a photographer. The idea was to get a picture of Air Force One with the Statue of Liberty.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg excoriated the plan, and Caldera reportedly got a dressing down from a “furious” President Barack Obama. Caldera apologized profusely, saying federal authorities took “the proper steps” but “it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Welcome aboard Air Force One

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House , including flying aboard Air Force One, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

Only two identical aircraft exist in the world which both share the same high-level function. They mirror one another precisely except for the numeric identifier on the tail. One reads 28000, the other 29000.
They’re as sleek as they are majestic. Anticipation runs high when either travels and both are red carpet worthy. They are concealed around-the-clock in a protective cocoon while being constantly pampered at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“Use of Deadly Force is Authorized” inside the security perimeter ringing around the outermost tips of their wings, and absolutely no one is allowed to enter without permission.

Obama takes “spiffy” first ride on Air Force One

OBAMA/ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE – Barack Obama, wearing a new jacket with his name and “Air Force One” embroidered on it, took his maiden voyage aboard the presidential Jumbo jet as commander in chief on Thursday.

“What do you think about this spiffy ride?” the president asked, smiling, as he walked into the journalists section at the back of the large plane. “I’ve got my spiffy jacket so I thought I’d come and show it off.”

Obama, who was traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia, to speak to gathering of Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives, chatted briefly about the economic stimulus bill in Congress before heading back to his quarters at the front of the plane.

Facebook becomes posterboard for inaugural festivities

WASHINGTON – For those not among the throngs in the U.S. capital for the inaugural festivities for Barack Obama, many have turned to Facebook to describe how they were watching the ceremonies or their state of excitement about the new president.

And yes, it even became a spot for soon-to-be former aides to outgoing President George W. Bush to describe their future after their tenure at the White House.

One Bush staffer described being “employed for only 1hr and 28 more minutes” while another told his friends he was on his way to Andrews Air Force Base to attend a closed-door departure ceremony before Bush flies back to Texas on the 747 airplane used as Air Force One (it’s only called that when the current president is aboard).

Obama gets a taste of the presidential life

ABOARD A U.S. AIR FORCE JET – Barack Obama got a taste of U.S presidential life on Sunday, traveling from Chicago to Washington on the military aircraft often used to fly Vice President Dick Cheney.USA-OBAMA/
The plane, an Air Force Boeing 757, had all the trappings of Air Force One: the presidential seal at the front, name cards with the seal, and cups and plates emblazoned “Air Force One.”
Obama said he got a little choked up before leaving his Chicago home for the U.S. capital where he will take office on Jan. 20. He said it hit him as he flipped through a photo album a friend gave his 10-year-old daughter Malia.
“I just looked through the pages. The house was empty. It was a little tough. It got me,” he told reporters. His wife Michelle, Malia and daughter Sasha, 7, arrived in Washington on Saturday. The girls start school on Monday.
The Obamas will stay at the luxury Hay Adams Hotel across a park from the White House until Jan. 15 when they move into Blair House, a guest house near the White House.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed. Obama steps off a military plane at Andrews Air Force Base, Jan. 4, 2009

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