President Bush Regroups in Texas During Holiday

President Bush is spending Thanksgiving with his family at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. NPR White House correspondent David Greene discusses the president's holiday plans, anti-war protesters and Iraq policy.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now we turn to President Bush spending Thanksgiving at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. The president's plans for the day include his daily briefings then dinner with his family, some exercise outside. NPR White House correspondent David Greene joins us from Waco.

And, David, the president recently logged quite a few miles on a trip to Japan, Korea, China and Mongolia. He must be glad to be back in Texas.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Hi, Renee.

Yeah. Well, I think the president's always glad to be back in Texas, and he's down here with his family, the first lady and his twin daughters, and the Bush family dogs came down. You know, this comes after a foreign trip to Asia, as you said, that probably--it probably wasn't exactly the trip that he planned for. Iraq really dominated the news the whole time. Even from Asia, the president found himself responding to a lot of criticism back at home. And there was--one of his final stops was in Beijing, and it made some news. He had a news conference with reporters after the end of the trip, and he tried to leave the room, and the door was locked. And to those of us who were on the trip, it seemed like a pretty human moment. I mean, who doesn't run into a locked door once in a while, but even that got some bad press back at home and there were photographs of him in newspapers running into a locked door and jokes about how he was trying to escape questions from journalists. So just another example of politically tough times for Mr. Bush.

MONTAGNE: Well, to be fair, he even made a joke about it.

GREENE: He did. He did.

MONTAGNE: So the president's Iraq policy, of course, has been taking quite a hit back here at home.

GREENE: It has, and that criticism only grew while he was in Asia and while he was in Latin America before that. The Senate voted on resolutions calling on 2006 to be a year of transition in Iraq and putting the country into Iraqi control. And then there was, as you know, Democrat John Murtha from Pennsylvania calling for a withdrawal. He's a very respected voice in the House. And that really framed the debate in a new way. And the White House decided to respond to all of this very forcefully. Both the president and Vice President Cheney have come out defending the war. They've gone after Democrats who said the White House twisted intelligence. And the polls so far show that, you know, they're not on the White House side. I mean, Americans believe that the war was unjustified, but Mr. Bush is giving a big war speech once he gets back to Washington; he's going to Annapolis next week. And the White House really does believe that over time, it can convince Americans that leaving Iraq early is a bad idea, but so far, they're not making much headway.

MONTAGNE: And for the president, even the ranch is no longer a refuge.

GREENE: It's not. You remember Cindy Sheehan. She was the California woman whose son Casey was killed in Iraq. And she got a lot of attention over the summer when she formed some pretty big protests down here asking the president to meet with her and explain why the war was necessary. And the protesters are back here in Crawford. There are some new ordinances here banning camping in ditches and parking near the president's ranch. And there were about a dozen protesters arrested yesterday under the new law, including Daniel Ellsberg, who was one of the famous Vietnam protesters and the former Pentagon analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He was arrested along with others yesterday.

MONTAGNE: And Cindy Sheehan, she wasn't there?

GREENE: She was not, but she's expected here soon. There was a headline in the local paper here saying there's going to be a second helping of Cindy Sheehan for Thanksgiving. She's on her way here and expected to arrive in time for a rally this weekend, sometime in the next day or two.

MONTAGNE: Well, this being a Thursday not a Friday--but it feels like it a little bit, 'cause it's a holiday--let's look ahead to next week. The president is hitting the road again Monday.

GREENE: He is. He's doing some stops to talk about immigration. And that's the issue he's going to try to come out on. This has been a very rough few months for the president: Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan, the CIA leak investigation. He's going to be going to Arizona, he's going to be going to El Paso to talk about immigration and try to, you know, get his momentum back on a new domestic issue. It's not an easy one. I mean, this is an issue that divides the Republican Party, and he's going to be having some trouble getting the guest worker plan that he wants in place to allow some immigrants who are here illegally to look for work. But that's the issue he's going to come out on. It'll be interesting to see how it goes.

MONTAGNE: NPR White House correspondent David Greene is in Waco, Texas.

And happy Thanksgiving, David.

GREENE: To you, too, Renee.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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