- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas First lady Laura Bush didn't much like her husband's characterization of her as the little homemaker preparing their ranch for the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Mr. Bush on Thursday said at three campaign events that his wife was at the 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch "sweeping the porch."

In Alabama, Mr. Bush told nearly 20,000 supporters: "It's raining in Crawford, Texas, and that's where she is and tomorrow we are hosting the president of China, so she's sweeping the porch."

At each event, the line drew hearty laughs (although a female reporter covering the president's trip pointed out they were exclusively from male supporters).

Yesterday, as the couple awaited the arrival of Mr. Jiang and his wife at the ranch, Mr. Bush asked reporters, "How's the porch look?"

One reporter then asked Mrs. Bush if she appreciated her husband's comments. Mr. Bush quickly smiled and said, "yes."

But at his side, Mrs. Bush silently mouthed the word "no" and shook her head.

Look for the president to return to his other stock passage in campaign speeches that each morning he brings his wife a cup of coffee.

All about face

Yesterday's meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Jiang got off to a shaky start as Mr. Jiang arrived 30 minutes late.

As Mr. Bush waited, he impatiently checked his watch, but suggested that he did not mind the unseasonably cold and damp weather as much as the lost time.

"We could be fishing," he said with a smile.

No reason was given for the delay of Mr. Jiang, who has been in Texas since Thursday.

The two leaders have had slightly strained protocol relations since before Mr. Bush's first trip to China last year. For the current visit, the Chinese had demanded Mr. Jiang attend a large state dinner; White House advance officials offered only a lunch meeting, considered a snub by the Chinese.

Perhaps yesterday's tardiness by Mr. Jiang was payback for the slight of offering only lunch at the ranch.

Jiang the cowboy

Mr. Jiang got his wish to bounce around the Bush ranch in a pickup truck.

The 76-year-old leader, who is stepping down next year, had made no secret of his desire to join other world leaders in getting the exclusive invitation to the Prairie Chapel ranch.

The trip recalled that of his predecessor, Deng Xiaoping, to Texas in 1979, when the leader donned a Stetson cowboy hat at a rodeo.

Mr. Bush took Mr. Jiang, his wife, Wang Yeping, and first lady Laura Bush on a 30-minute tour of the ranch in the president's white pickup truck.

The visit also included a down-home lunch of Southern fried catfish, black-eyed pea salad, mesquite-smoked beef brisket and pork ribs, country potato salad and ranch beans. Dessert included lemon bars and pecan "tassies."

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