Jet Lag Makes Even Bush a Little 'Grumpy'
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Greetings from Africa, where President Bush is visiting for the second time while in office, jetting from coast to coast to tout his efforts to fight AIDS, malaria and poverty. On the Plane is back to take you a little behind the scenes and tell some of the stories that get lost in the regular coverage you see on the web site and in the print edition.
Like everyone on the trip, Bush is fighting jet lag. He has the advantage of a big bed and private room in the front of Air Force One for the arduous trip over -- nearly 10 hours to the tiny West Africa country of Benin, where he stopped for three hours to refuel and meet local leaders before hopping back on the plane to fly another six hours here to Tanzania. His aides are left to find a couch somewhere or a patch of floor where they sack out. Those of us in the press cabin stay in our seats for the 16 hours of flight time.
Bush generally keeps his humor through all sorts of exhausting days, but his fatigue sometimes shows. After waking up early this morning, he received a grand welcome to the State House for his meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete. Our colleague, Jon Ward of the Washington Times, serving as the pool reporter representing the rest of the media that could not fit into the confined space, asked how the president enjoyed the reception.
Bush blew him off. "You can ask me that question at the press conference," he said.
As it turned out, Ward didn't get called on at the news conference. But one of the Tanzanian reporters who did asked Bush why it took him so long to come here for the first time.
"I don't have many excuses," Bush shrugged, "except I've been a pretty busy guy."
True enough. Even here in Africa, Bush has issues elsewhere to think about, including the fight over surveillance law back home, the upcoming elections in Pakistan tomorrow and the decision by Kosovo to declare independence. Tabassum Zakaria of Reuters asked if the United States would recognize Kosovo. When he didn't answer directly, she asked again.
"I suggest you study the Ahtisaari plan," he scolded her, referring to a U.N. plan for supervised independence that he supports.
Then, realizing that might have come across harsher than he meant it, he quickly added with a laugh, "Not to be like the, you know, grumpy guy."
-- Peter Baker
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