Bush Heads for Maine to Vacation, Direct Mideast Effort With AM-US-Iraq, Bjt
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) _ A tired looking President Bush began a crisis-clouded, 25-day vacation Friday saying he did not want to ″be held hostage in the White House to events.″
Bush said he believes Americans would be sympathetic to his decision to leave Washington as U.S. forces move into the turbulent Persian Gulf region. ″I’m determined that life goes on,″ he said.
Accompanied by his wife, Barbara, he flew to their oceanside home, but said he could return to Washington on short notice if necessary.
″It’s very easy to go back,″ Bush said, noting it is only a 1 1/2-hour flight to the capital.
Immediatly on his arrival, Bush went fishing for a couple hours on his racing boat, Fidelity. The excursion was interrupted by a shore-to-ship telephone call from Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, concerning the Arab League’s decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia and to impose economic sanctions against Iraq.
″I think the American people want to see life go on, so long as they understand that their president and his top officials are on top of a troubled situation,″ Bush told reporters.
Bush has ordered a major deployment of U.S. troops, planes and ships to the gulf area in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the possibility that Saddam Hussein’s army would continue on into oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
Explaining Bush’s decision to go to Kennebunkport, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said, ″Our forces are going to be in a defensive manner. It’s not a conflict.″
The president appeared fatigued after long days of monitoring the crisis. Bush met at the White House with foreign policy advisers and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney before leaving.
The White House originally said Bush was taking extra staff with him but Fitzwater said on Friday that was not the case.
White House chief of staff John Sununu was heading for vacation in his home state of New Hampshire. Vice President Dan Quayle was preparing for a vacation in Arizona.
Scowcroft, Bush’s national security adviser and frequent golf companion in Maine, remained behind at the White House.
The top officials accompanying Bush were Robert Gates, onetime deputy director of the CIA and now Scowcroft’s deputy; Andrew Card, the chief deputy to Sununu, and Fitzwater.
Bush is to remain in Maine until Labor Day, Sept. 3.
Bush said this vacation ″will be different″ from previous stays when he devoted himself to golf, fishing, tennis and other recreation.
″It will be legitimately a combination of work and play,″ the president said. ″What you don’t want to do is appear to held hostage in the White House to events.″
He spoke with reporters on Air Force One en route to Maine. The president is expected to break away on Wednesday to return to Washington for a day of briefings and then head back to Kennebunkport.
Bush said Americans should know that his estate is equipped with a complex and effective communications system that will allow him to be in close touch with administration officials and with other world leaders.
″I will have a busy schedule, busier than I would have liked to have had,″ he said.
He said Secretary of State James A. Baker III, after visiting Turkey and attending a NATO meeting in Brussels, was expected to fly to Maine over the weekend to brief him.
″If I find matters seem to be requiring my going back, it’s an hour-and-a- half to go,″ he said.
Bush’s oceanfront home at Walker’s Point has its own helipad, and is heavily protected on land by the Secret Service and at sea by Coast Guard ships.
Bush has gone to Kennebunkport every summer of his life except 1944, when he was in the Pacific flying bombing missions for the Navy against the Japanese in World War II.