U.S. shutdown takes some of the pomp out of the presidency


WASHINGTON -- It was the sort of day for the Bush presidency that can only be described as cheesy.

What should have been a triumphant moment for President Bush, the East Room swearing-in ceremony of Judge David H. Souter as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, was meager and barely noticed.

Judge Souter, Mr. Bush's first appointment to the high court, was not even given a reception, because there was not enough White House staff on duty to set up the party.

Since the Navy Yard was closed as part of the great government shutdown, the Secret Service had to take the two presidential limousines to the Mr. Wash car wash downtown, where agents did their part for the bankrupt government by using dollar-off coupons and not tipping.

Mr. Bush himself took a page from the diminished presidency book of Jimmy Carter and carried his own suitcase into the White House when he returned home from Camp David yesterday afternoon.

Instead of the usual majestic landing on the South Lawn in Marine One, the president pulled up to the driveway of the residence in a tan Chevrolet Suburban four-wheel-drive utility vehicle.

He had forsworn helicopters for the weekend trip to the Maryland mountain retreat to save money because, as spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "Every little bit helps."

Worse yet, the ragtag presidential motorcade got stuck on the way home in beltway traffic, forced to wait in a half-mile backup at a construction site.

One of the Secret Service cars blew a tire, and agents bearing machine guns had to commandeer a Park Service police car.

the Presidential helicopter meanwhile, on Standby at Camp David, flew back to Washington empty.

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