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Bush moved closer to storm; San Antonio was 'too sunny'

RAW STORY

David Sanger writes from San Antonio in Saturday's (registration- restricted) special section of the New York Times: "President Bush was supposed to land here on Friday afternoon on the first stop of a tour intended to make clear that he was personally overseeing the federal government's preparations for Hurricane Rita's landfall. But the weather did not cooperate. Excerpts continue:

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It was too sunny.

Just minutes before Mr. Bush was scheduled to leave the White House, his aides in Washington scrubbed the stop in San Antonio. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, explained that the search-and-rescue team that Mr. Bush had planned to meet and thank here in San Antonio was actually packing up to move closer to where the hurricane would strike.

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So instead, Mr. Bush flew straight to Colorado Springs, where he plans to monitor the response to the hurricane from the headquarters of the Northern Command, responsible for the military defense of the United States.

In a White House that likes to choreograph the president's appearances days or weeks ahead, it was a reminder that the newest strategy - to put Mr. Bush close to the center of the action - had its risks.

At the Federal Emergency Management Agency's command center in Washington a reporter asked him: "Sir, what good can you do going down to the hurricane zone? Might you get in the way?" Mr. Bush quickly shot back, "One thing I won't do is get in the way."

But clearly someone at the White House reconsidered the President's impact. When Mr. McClellan announced that the president had scrapped his trip, he said that with the search-and-rescue team preparing to move with the storm, "we didn't want to slow that down."

Another White House official involved in preparing Mr. Bush's way noted that with the sun shining so brightly in San Antonio, the images of Mr. Bush from here might not have made it clear to viewers that he was dealing with an approaching storm.

Originally published on Saturday September 24, 2005.

 


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