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Shea: End is near for George W. Bush, and he's sure acting that way
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

George W. Bush has roughly 200 days remaining in office.

This is probably not new information, given the number of Bush countdown clocks and calendars in circulation throughout the country, if not the world.

The end is near, but there is still plenty of damage ''The Decider'' could do in his last six months. That said, I'm not as worried about this as I used to be.

Does anyone else have the sense that Bush is just mailing it in now?

Granted, it's harder to tell if a president is on cruise control than, say, a co-worker, because you are not privy to the telltale signs:

The calling in sick (of work).

The two-hour lunches (expensed).

The disengagement (whatever).

The naps (with the door open).

You could really see evidence of GWB's tune out before he left on his Excellent European Vacation earlier this month.

Asked about the $4-a-gallon gas on his way out the door, Bush responded that the solution to the problem is to open up offshore areas and the Arctic to drilling.

Of course, experts say that might be of some minimal benefit 20 years from now, but Bush didn't mention that. He never was a details guy.

It wasn't what Bush said - he's always been an Of the Oil, By the Oil, For the Oil kind of leader - but the offhanded way he said it, which had an almost ''Now watch me hit this drive'' tone to it.

Another indicator that Bush is just playing out the string is his vacation - sorry - travel schedule for his final year in office.

He has already been to the Middle East, Asia and Europe, and overall has eight trips scheduled, including the Summer Olympics in China.

I can't recall Bush's exact words when he was asked if maybe he should not attend the games given what was transpiring in Tibet, but what registered was:

''Are you kidding me, I got great seats.''

Of course, no one has ever accused Bush of being a White House workaholic. He usually takes bike rides at lunch, quits early, and is in bed by 10 p.m. (His life could be more boring than mine.)

One of the things Bush has been very good at, which kind of ties in with his new embrace of foreign travel, is vacationing.

Sure, it can be argued that a president is never really on vacation, but in Bush's case you could almost argue that he is never really not on vacation.

According to Mark Knoller, a CBS White House reporter who keeps meticulous records, as of this past March, Bush has totaled 452 vacation days (about 1 1/3 years worth) during his seven-plus years as president.

This eclipses the previous mark set by Ronald Reagan of 436 days, and is one of those records, like Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games, which may never be broken

Rather than criticize Bush as he pursues his presidential ''Bucket List'' in the dying days of his tenure, perhaps we should be thankful he is not fully engaged.

Maybe the best course at this point is to just let sleeping presidents lie.

---

* JIM SHEA is a columnist for The Courant.

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