- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — President Bush yesterday exhorted the House and Senate to resolve their differences over his education reform package and send him a bill that he can sign before American children return to school in the fall.
But Mr. Bush spent most of the day fishing and relaxing at his family's summer retreat here on the Atlantic shore. He also scattered a gaggle of journalists with an errant golf ball, recalling the Ford administration.
In his weekly radio address, the president implored Congress to pass "the boldest plan to improve our public schools in a generation — a plan to raise educational standards for every child and to require new accountability from every school."
Mr. Bush's plan has been criticized by some Republicans, who say it caters to Democratic demands and does not include a provision for school vouchers. He seemed frustrated that even with strong Democratic support, the measure has not been finalized.
"We stand on the verge of dramatic improvements for America's public schools," the president said. "Yet all of this will happen only when Congress joins with me to take the final, crucial step of resolving differences between the House and the Senate versions and sending an education reform bill to my desk."
Mr. Bush called the differences between the House and Senate versions "small," noting that the Senate version "gives more flexibility," while the House bill "is more fiscally responsible and focuses federal dollars where they will do the most good." He tried to put pressure on Congress by arguing that governors and local school boards across the nation are eagerly awaiting the education reform package.
"We have come so far. We're almost there. And we must finish the job. Completing the work of education reform is a final exam for Congress before they go home in August for summer vacation and before America's children go back to school," he said.
Mr. Bush spent yesterday morning golfing with his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, their father, former President George Bush, and a first cousin of the president, Hap Ellis. On the 18th hole, the president bounced a line drive directly into a group of reporters, narrowly missing a photographer who fell to the ground as his colleagues ducked for cover.
"I apologize," the president said with a smile as he approached the journalists. He insisted he "was not aiming" at them. But onlooker Mike McQuillan, who was about to tee off at the first hole, was not convinced.
"You hit it right where you were aiming," the Massachussets man said with enthusiasm. "You should have seen them scatter."
Mr. Bush then hit his ball out of a sand trap, sending it bouncing to within 4 feet of the cup. Onlookers cheered.
"You know," the president said with an air of satisfaction, "occasionally, something good happens."
"George," interrupted Jeb Bush, plunking another ball into the sand at the president's feet, "do it again."
"Forget 181," warned the president, referring to the number of an off-shore oil exploration lease in Florida that he scaled back at the request of his brother. Then, turning back to the reporters, he added: "Get it?"
"All right," Jeb Bush conceded. "I'll take the ball back."
"What a beautiful day today," the president announced. A few moments later, he joked: "Nobody look. Jeb's putting."
Onlookers oohed and aahed when the president missed a 4-foot putt and then laughed out loud when he missed one by mere inches. Rather than aim for the hole a third time, he knocked the ball away as his father roared with laughter.
"I did it on purpose," the president said to his father. "Tried to make you feel good."
It was not the only sporting event the president lost to other members of his notoriously competitive family. Asked by The Washington Times whether he had made good on his promise to regain the family championship at horseshoes, the president turned glum. "Had a bad day yesterday," he said. "The Georges pitched against the Jebs. Jeb and Jeb Jr. George H.W. and George W. Massive upset." As they drove away in their golf carts, the elder President Bush added: "We're gonna win it today, though."

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