- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

Less Hollywood glitz. Rarer formal state dinners. Fewer renditions of "Hail to the Chief."
It's the barely-any-frills White House.
With changes big and small, President Bush has sought to shape White House life in a way that suits him, his preferences and his political agenda.
The buttoned-down Bush administration says the result is a more honorable and respectable White House.
"It comes down to the personal views and personal styles of each president," said Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "He believes it is important to give the highest elected office in the land the respect it commands."
Behind some of the changes is a barely hidden disdain for President Clinton, who loved big crowds and splashy ceremonies. In the wake of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, Mr. Bush frequently said during his 2000 presidential campaign that he would "restore honor and dignity to the White House."
Stephen Wayne, a Georgetown University government professor, said fanfare and fuss just do not fit the style of a man who thinks of and portrays himself as having more in common with regular guys from Texas than intellectual elites.
"There is respect for the presidency but some discomfort with some of the ceremony," he said.
Mr. Wayne also sees a sharp contrast between the stylistic adjustments that scale down the White House's public face and Mr. Bush's unapologetic efforts to protect executive-branch clout through refusals to release details of energy policy meetings, among other moves.
"He has aggressively consolidated the power of the presidency while reducing some of the majesty," Mr. Wayne said.
Many of the changes break long-held traditions.
Mr. Bush has taken to using just a single pen to sign bills into law, jettisoning the practice of painstakingly switching to a new writing utensil after each letter or two to produce coveted keepsakes for key lawmakers.
Aides said Mr. Bush decided the old way was a bit unseemly, not to mention unwieldy. Now, the one pen he uses is sent to the presidential library, leaving members of Congress who played pivotal roles in the legislation's passage to make do with ceremonial pens.
Mr. Bush is said to believe that Mr. Clinton overused "Hail to the Chief." He has directed that the song played to herald the commander in chief's entrance into a room be reserved only for official and more formal occasions.
Mr. Bush, who favors one-on-one chats with world leaders in casual surroundings, has staged just two traditional black-tie state dinners in nearly two years: in September 2001 for Mexican President Vicente Fox and in July for Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. His father, by contrast, held 17 in his one four-year term.
The current administration's state dinners also have hardly been the star-studded Hollywood extravaganzas of the Clinton years, which often outgrew even the White House's ample entertaining rooms. In general, few of the entertainment industry's denizens are visitors to this White House.
There's nothing new about presidents giving the White House a fresh stamp, from the many substantive changes in policy to the much more trivial decoration of rooms.
President Ford replaced "Hail to the Chief" with the fight song from the University of Michigan, his alma mater. President Carter insisted on carrying his own luggage a garment bag later discovered to have been empty all along.
As with others, Mr. Bush started right away, issuing a dress code forbidding jeans and requiring neckties in the Oval Office. Women are merely told to be "appropriately dressed."
Some changes also are the natural result of a Republican administration that, for example, has fewer friends in the heavily Democratic entertainment industry, but many reflect the personality of Mr. Bush himself, who has little tolerance for pomp and circumstance.
The White House, for instance, considered dispensing with the annual practice of pardoning a turkey in the Rose Garden just before Thanksgiving. At the very least, aides said Mr. Bush thought the event might be carried out just as well this year at his Texas ranch, where tentative plans had him spending the entire holiday week.
In the end, tradition won, though Mr. Bush spent just nine cursory minutes at the event.
Finally, one factor shaping the Bush White House is the president's belief that he operates best in "small, quiet situations where the press is not in attendance," Mr. Wayne said. Hence, so far there have been just a half-dozen formal solo news conferences with reporters.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide