1/02/2006

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: President Wages War on the Underbrush

Near Waco in more ways than one, President Bush enjoys his favorite passtime: Chainsaw yielding to decapitate rebel.. trees


President Bush, shown clearing cedar at his Crawford, Tex., ranch in 2002, has not lost his enthusiasm for the task during recent trips to what aides call the Western White House.

Down on the Ranch, President Wages War on the Underbrush
Washington Post - Saturday, December 31, 2005; A03

What the president is doing is highly recreational," said Gene Hall, spokesman for the Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau, a lobbying group of farmers and ranchers. "Some people just enjoy that kind of outdoor activity. Once you've been cooped up in the Oval Office a couple of weeks, it might be kind of nice."

Real ranchers, who need to clear a whole lot of brush for pasture land, either hire someone to spray herbicides from the air or run an excavator through it. They tend to tend cattle, several said.

Bush, by contrast, practices a selective, do-it-yourself sculpting to enhance his enjoyment of his property, local experts say. He will clear underbrush to preserve beautiful live oaks and pecan trees.. (note to reporter: insert birds chirping here to soften Bush's madness)

CRAWFORD, Tex., Dec. 30 -- On most of the 365 days he has enjoyed at his secluded ranch here, President Bush's idea of paradise is to hop in his white Ford pickup truck in jeans and work boots, drive to a stand of cedars, and whack the trees to the ground.

If the soil is moist enough, he will light a match and burn the wood. If it is parched, as it is across Texas now, the wood will sit in piles scattered over the 1,600-acre spread until it is safe for a ranch hand to torch -- or until the president can come home and do the honors himself.

Sometimes this activity is the only official news to come out of what aides call the Western White House. For five straight days since Monday, when Bush retreated to the ranch for his Christmas sojourn, a spokesman has announced that the president, in between intelligence briefings, calls to advisers and bicycling, has spent much of his day clearing brush.

This might strike many Washingtonians as a curious pastime. It does burn a lot of calories. But brush clearing is dusty, it is exhausting (the president goes at it in 100 degree-plus heat), and it is earsplitting, requiring earplugs to dull the chain saw's buzz.

For Bush, who is known to spend early-morning hours hacking at unwanted mesquite, cocklebur weeds, hanging limbs and underbrush only to go back for more after lunch, it borders on obsession.

Aides are corralled to help, although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a frequent guest, has escaped brush duty. "The tradecraft she uses to get out of it is highly confidential, and I can't discuss it," said national security adviser Steven J. Hadley. To date, no visiting foreign leaders have been conscripted...


Down on the Ranch, President Wages War on the Underbrush

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