- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine President Bush packed Air Force One with siblings, nieces, nephews and family pets and slipped out of Washington yesterday for a birthday weekend at his parents' summer compound, Walker's Point.
Mr. Bush plans a long holiday weekend of fishing, golf and horseshoes, capped by a small celebration of his 56th birthday today.
"He's going to enjoy a lot of downtime and family time and sports time," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said aboard the presidential jet. "You never know with the Bush family when a game of tennis or some other sporting event will break out."
Before leaving for Maine, Mr. Bush telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to express condolences for the deaths of Afghan civilians Monday in a U.S. bombing in which Afghan officials said 44 civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded while celebrating a wedding.
Members of the Bush clan also heading to the craggy coastal retreat were former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara; his brother, Marvin, and wife Margaret, and their children, Marshall and Walker. Also along are the president and first lady Laura Bush's 20-year-old twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara; Mr. Bush's sister, Dorothy, and her husband, Bobby Koch.
First dogs Barney and Spot also made the flight.
Mr. Fleischer said the president would likely celebrate at a family gathering that would include cake.
"Some singing can be expected," he added.
The media, softened by the prospect of a relaxing three-day weekend, altered the tone of its inquiries yesterday. Instead of questions to the press secretary that usually begin, "A new report shows ," one question yesterday began simply, "Back to the birthday. "
"My advice to everybody is to enjoy your weekend, relax," Mr. Fleischer told his friendly foes. "There's nothing formal, no briefings planned, so don't anticipate any."
Mr. Bush plans a monthlong vacation in August at his Prairie Chapel ranch in Crawford, Texas just like last year, when he ribbed members of the media for their penchant for vacationing in the Northeast.
"I know a lot of you wish you were on the East Coast, lounging on the beaches, sucking in the salt air, but when you're from Texas and love Texas this is where you come home. This is my home," he said last summer.
The Bush family has spent its summers at the six-acre stone-and-shingle Walker's Point compound that juts into the Atlantic Ocean for more than 100 years. The current president's arrival barely created a ripple in the laid-back lifestyle of Mainers.
"This is not something new for the town of Kennebunkport," said Town Manager Nathan Poore, noting that the former president vacationed here throughout his term.
Vacationers packed the nearby town of Kennebunk and splashed in the ocean near the Bush compound, one of only six zones nationwide over which aircraft are not allowed to fly.
Media members and White House staff numbering more than 250, including Secret Service agents, have jammed into inns across the tiny port town with a police force of just 11 officers.
On his birthday last year, when Mr. Bush also visited Kennebunkport, he marked the occasion with an early round of golf with his father, who gave his son a cap emblazoned with the number "43" the younger Bush is the 43rd president while he donned a cap adorned with the number "41," his own presidential number.

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