The Obamas and Clinton Plant Some Trees
Peter Baker of the New York Times -- and formerly of The Washington Post -- was the pool reporter for President Obama's tree planting event with the Student Conservation Association this afternoon. His report:
No news, but some color from the tree planting.
Motorcade left the White House at 3:26 p.m. and arrived at the Seed School at 3:39 p.m. The bill signing in the school auditorium was open press. Motorcade then left the school at 4:38 p.m., passing through lower-income Washington neighborhoods that rarely see a president and that greeted this one with cheers along the route. POTUS arrived at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens along the border with Maryland at 4:47 p.m.
POTUS, VPOTUS, FLOTUS, FPOTUS (Former President of the United States Bill Clinton) and Jill Biden (sorry, there should be an acronym) all participated in a tree planting sponsored by the Student Conservation Association in a muddy marsh beside the Anacostia River at Kenilworth. By the time they arrived, the men had all shucked their coats and ties. FLOTUS had wisely put on a pair of boots. POTUS had not.
The dignitaries walked up to the site of the planting with arms around the student workers, who were all wearing T-shirts that said "SCA - Earth Day 09." POTUS made sure to shake every student's hand, and then they all posed for a picture. The leader, Amtchat Edwards, then gave a little explanation. "This is a real life service project," he said, noting that they were planting trees to protect the river and, by extension, the entire watershed. He then staged a demonstration, calling on four of the students to play trees, with hands interlocked to simulate roots, another to play dirt and still another to play rain.
"Great job, trees," VPOTUS said after it was over. "Dirt, you did a good job."
As he looked around and contemplated the task before him, something struck POTUS. "Somebody forgot my boots," he said.
FPOTUS noted that his shoes didn't seem dirty yet. "See? You're light on your feet."
POTUS said FPOTUS would go first since the former president had a fundraiser to get to. "I don't want him getting off scot-free," POTUS said.
Several volunteers then showed FPOTUS where to dig to plant his tree as POTUS and the rest watched. The student volunteers told FPOTUS to expose more space for the tree to grow. POTUS edged over to look at the hole he dug. "I just want to get in here [to see] so I don't screw it up," POTUS said.
Then POTUS offered his assessment. "I think the president has pretty good shoveling skills," he said of FPOTUS.
FPOTUS laughed, then noted that service is important to him. "I told them that's why I got into politics," he said.
Edwards, the volunteer leader, said that Americorps, launched by FPOTUS, had helped a lot of people. FPOTUS nodded. "Thank you," he said. "You're a good man. Thank you for doing this for five years. It's great, isn't it?"
"Mr. President, I don't think you can do any better than that," POTUS said of the former's hole. He walked FPOTUS off and said goodbye. "Stay in touch," POTUS was overheard saying.
Then it was time for everyone else to do their trees. FLOTUS picked out the biggest one there. "Look how big our tree is, honey," she called out. POTUS ended up with a smaller tree with purple flowers. Somehow FPOTUS, rather than leaving, ended up planting yet another tree. Asked later by your pooler how come he was planting twice as many trees as anyone else, FPOTUS laughed and said, "Cuz I got twice as much experience as everyone else." He was a bit red in the face from the exertion but seemed to be enjoying himself. He noted that planting trees in Arkansas was like second nature. He said one of the volunteers told him, "You've done this before," to which he said he replied, "Oh, yeah."
POTUS, on the other hand, did not look like he was having quite as much fun. He dutifully dug and chopped at the dirt with a pick-ax and helped plant his tree as per instruction, and he complimented the volunteers who helped him. But FLOTUS seemed to get into the program more enthusiastically, doffing her jacket, exposing those famous biceps and attacking the dirt with gusto while POTUS wandered over to watch. "All right, you done good, sweetie," POTUS told FLOTUS as she continued to dig.
And then your pool was ushered off as POTUS inspected his muddy shoes.
The motorcade left Kenilworth at 5:26 p.m. and arrived back at the White House at 5:40 p.m.
Posted at 6:33 PM ET on Apr 21, 2009
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