President establishes work-life balancing act
Since the start of his presidency, George Bush has taken heat for his regular naps, two-hour breaks for exercise, and those long "working...
The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON — Since the start of his presidency, George Bush has taken heat for his regular naps, two-hour breaks for exercise, and those long "working vacations" in Texas.
Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft once quipped that the White House was committed to working "24/7 — 24 hours a week, seven months a year."
So as the president enters the home stretch of his five-week respite in Crawford, Texas, an old debate is being renewed: What's the proper work-life balance for a president? Is there a disconnect between U.S. workers' ever-longer hours and the precise but compact schedule of the nation's CEO?
Supporters say Bush brings a refreshing degree of proportionality to the many demands on his time. At the White House, he is early to bed, early to rise, and he runs meetings with West Point punctuality — habits in sharp contrast to his often tardy and workaholic predecessor, Bill Clinton.
The president brings the same sensibility to his ranch, renewing mind, body and spirit with sweaty stints of brush clearing, mountain biking, and fishing — on top of speeches, fund-raisers, intelligence briefings, and policy huddles with aides and officials.
"Bush reflects ... an exceptionally good work-life balance at the level he's at," says Jim Bird, CEO of Atlanta-based WorkLifeBalance.com.
Critics, however, charge Bush with setting a bad example. A reported tally of his time in office shows he has spent as much as 20 percent of his days in Crawford. In fact, this Sunday, Bush passed President Reagan for most days spent away from the Oval Office.
"We're the hardest-working people in the world, and we have a president who seems to not only be working bankers' hours, but taking French bankers' vacation," said Rick Shenkman, a presidential historian who wrote "Presidential Ambition: Gaining Power at Any Cost."
But Shenkman, who rates James Polk as the nation's hardest-working president and Warren Harding as its laziest, cautioned that a true picture of Bush's work ethic won't be known until he leaves office. He cited Reagan, who was teased for keeping light office hours and once joked: "It's true, hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"
Later, scholars revised their views when evidence emerged that Reagan spent many evenings poring through stacks of papers and digests.
"It's somewhat unfair to accuse a president who generally works very hard ... for taking five weeks off," said Barbara Kellerman, research director at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "It's not as if Bush is sitting on a recliner."
Bush himself described a typical day at his Crawford ranch to reporters recently, as reported by The New York Times: "I'm going to have lunch with Secretary of State Rice, talk a little business; Mrs. Bush, talk a little business ... take a little nap. I'm reading an Elmore Leonard book right now, knock off a little Elmore Leonard this afternoon; go fishing with my man, Barney; a light dinner and head to the ballgame. I get to bed about 9:30 p.m., wake up at 5 a.m. So it's a perfect day."
It seems, however, public tolerance for presidential leisure time is decidedly lower in wartime.
Bush's sagging approval ratings, amid rising gas prices and growing discontent over the Iraq war, are transforming his vacation into a public-relations campaign. Today, Bush argues the case for staying the course in Iraq before National Guard troops and families in Idaho.
Virtually all presidents, experts said, have sought downtime, but their modes of relaxation varied greatly.
Theodore Roosevelt, for example, incorporated fast hikes and boxing into his routine. Lyndon Johnson and Clinton were incorrigible political junkies. Johnson sometimes conducted meetings while on the toilet.
As presidential workloads increase, experts say, so does the need for balance.
"You need to take time to keep your own physical, mental, spiritual act together, or you are not going to be a good president or leader of anything," Bird said.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
"Iron Man 3" kicks off a summer blockbuster season that will see hundreds of speeding, squealing, exploding, airborne, rolling and smoking vehicles in...
Post a comment