Inside the Bush Bubble
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The first sign of trouble at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington was the large plane on the tarmac with the crown painted on it. It didn't seem likely that the White House planned to send the media that covers President Bush to Latin America in royal fashion. And sure enough, that was not our plane. King Abdullah II of Jordan was in town and taking his time about leaving. Until he did, we couldn't.
You know a presidential trip is getting off to a bad start when the king of Jordan jumps the line. So President Bush's visit to Latin America kicked off with scores of reporters, photographers, cameramen, sound guys, White House staff and Secret Service agents cooling our heels at Andrews for a couple hours waiting for Abdullah's men to load his luggage and take off. Fortunately for Bush, the press charter that ferries the media on big international trips leaves the night before he does. Presumably not even a king would delay Air Force One.
We're going to try something a little different with this trip. Welcome to the first White House traveling blog, a variation on a theme started by our colleague Glenn Kessler, who recently began filing web-only on-the-road dispatches from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's many international travels.
For the next week as the president makes his way across Latin America, we'll be posting regular updates taking you inside the bubble of a presidential trip. We'll try to show the nitty-gritty of how the White House and the traveling press corps actually operate, in a way that never gets seen in the daily newspaper or the nightly news. It'll be ugly at times, but that'll make it fun.
As one of three White House correspondents at The Post (along with Michael Fletcher and Michael Abramowitz), I've never written a blog, so bear with me as we experiment. My colleague Jessica Yellin of ABC News explained that a blog is for all the whining you can't do in the newspaper or on air and that seems like as good a mission statement as any. But if you have comments or questions, please post them here and we'll try to shed light on whatever interests you.
A quick preview of the trip: Bush will spend the next week traveling to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, trying to repair relations with a region that has felt pretty neglected since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush plans to offer a commitment to addressing poverty and "social justice" (his words) that will compete with the leftist vision of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Bush effectively summed up his message the other day with words straight out of his father's presidency: "We care."
The chartered jet that carries most of the media -- in this case, a Boeing 777 arranged by the White House Travel Office but paid for by our news organizations -- left Andrews last night and, after a nine-plus-hour overnight flight, we arrived this morning in Sao Paulo at 10:50 local time. The president left on Air Force One this morning and will catch up with us here this evening, late enough that he'll head to bed without any events until tomorrow.
So the journalists have the day to get ready for his arrival, write setup pieces, look around and (editors, stop reading here) maybe even do a little shopping. Actually, it'll be the only relaxed period of the trip. Starting tomorrow, we're in for six days of 5 a.m. wakeup calls, shuffling from one filing center to another, multiple security checks, three-hour bus rides and, at the end of most days, another plane flight to another country and another hotel.
So get ready to come along. And forgive the whining.
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