By: E&P Staff
More than four dozen members of the press corps accepted an invitation to a barbeque at the Bush ranch in Texas last night, even though it was off-the-record and they had to ride a bus past the Cindy Sheehan-led antiwar camp site.
The party was pool side, though no one stripped and swam. The president wore jeans and served Texas beer.
The Associated Press reported, “The casual affair of fried catfish, potato salad, coleslaw, homemade cheese and chocolate-chip cookies followed a tradition in which Bush and his wife, Laura, have the press covering his annual August vacation out to the their ranch in central Texas as a sort of thank-you.
“The event was not held last year because of the busy campaign season. The invitations to the reporters were issued on the condition that they not discuss conversations at the event.”
Dan Froomkin, in his online Washignton Post column today, notes that ?in spite of all the recent press demands for senior administration officials to stay on the record more often, the press corps can’t resist an offer of face time with the president, pretty much no matter what the conditions.?
Nevertheless, he reports, he had been told ?that several reporters expressed squeamishness about last night’s event, particularly as the press-pool vans drove by antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan’s ‘Camp Casey’ site. And later, a small handful watched askance as the rest fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved.?
Froomkin noted that Bush kept the ?bigfooting? media stars back in Washington, D.C. from crashing the party by issuing invites only at the last minute.
A report on the NBC News blog The Daily Nightly by Antoine Sanfuentes, NBC News producer, observed:
“It is no small feat to organize the White House press corps, over 60 strong, into a half dozen white vans and then motorcade them to the ranch. This summer, of course, has been no ordinary summer, with Cindy Sheehan camped out along the side of the road and those opposing her views on the other – the van ride to the ranch is a reminder that our country is at war and the President we are to visit has much on his mind….
“Wild grasses and various flowers and trees surround the First Family’s residence. The roof is made of metal and the large windows framed in natural rock overlook the property that includes canyons, streams and various indigenous trees.
“Reporters engaged both the President and the First Lady on a wide range of topics. As the sun set just beyond the pool where we had spent about two few hours, we then headed back to the vans to make our way back to our hotels.”