In her gut, pundit thanks White House
Having made a living for years skewering President Bush, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times is almost certainly not one of the White House's...
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Having made a living for years skewering President Bush, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times is almost certainly not one of the White House's favorite columnists.
She refers to the president dismissively, by his middle initial, and has been vastly less than impressed by his efforts in the Middle East. "After subverting diplomacy in his first term," Dowd wrote recently of Bush's latest efforts to mediate between the Israelis and Palestinians, "now W. does drive-by diplomacy, taking a playboy approach to peace."
This kind of language did not, however, dissuade White House aides and medical staff from leaping to help Dowd when she fell ill during Bush's eight-day swing through the Middle East.
Once she arrived in Jerusalem Jan. 8, Dowd fell sick — and started second-guessing her decision to leave the campaign trail for the presidential bubble abroad. She was suffering some kind of stomach bug that left her nauseated, weak and feeling feverish.
"I'm not sure it was a New Hampshire fever or Jerusalem food poisoning," said Dowd, whose columns recently began running in The Seattle Times. Presidential aides, including press secretary Dana Perino, made clear early on that Dowd could see Richard Tubb, the Air Force brigadier general who oversees the White House medical office and takes care of the president at home and abroad.
But Dowd declined. With no medication, she tried to soldier on by grabbing whatever rest she could in her hotel room. Dowd finally decided to take up the White House on its offer.
A young press aide, Carlton Carroll, helped arrange for Dowd to visit Tubb at the Emirates Palace, the $3 billion luxury hotel where the president and his aides were staying. The hotel is so vast that Dowd and her escorts got lost twice in the marble and gold hallways.
Tubb gave her a few tablets of Cipro and some Pepto-Bismol and told her to check back with him the next day. She turned down Tubb's offer of an IV (so there was no chance of an "accidental" poisoning, she joked).
"He was wonderful — just really sweet," Dowd said in an interview Tuesday afternoon in the press filing center in Riyadh, where she appeared to be feeling much better.
On Sunday, when the entourage flew from Bahrain to the United Arab Emirates, Dowd was supposed to be flying on the press charter, without access to Tubb. But the White House made room for her aboard Air Force One, where she visited the doctor once again in his office near the president's.
"I was thinking that if I ran into Bush, I would have to apologize for it not being a fatal disease," Dowd said. "He was very generous to share his doctor — even if he didn't know it."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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