Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bush Family Wedding Brings Two Former Presidents 50 Feet From My Balcony

On July 2, I stood on the balcony of my hotel room in Kennebunkport, Maine as the 41st and 43rd Presidents made their entrance to a wedding reception going on 50 feet away from me. (The woman who checked us into the hotel the night before told me that there was a wedding reception about to happen and the look in her eyes told me that we should give it a wide berth.)  I am not sure who got married -- David Lauren and Lauren Bush? -- but I got a close look at the two former presidents, their spouses and their secret service contingents.

Our hotel, The Breakwater Inn, is a nice place that's perhaps half a mile from Walker Point, the Bush family compound. But there are many other places -- some much closer by -- where the Bushes could have held their reception. The Inn features a restaurant overlooking a river -- about 40 yards away -- that boats use to go back and forth between the Atlantic Ocean and their moorings.

And our room was on the second floor -- with a wide balcony overlooking the entrance to the hotel and the restaurant as well as the river. Around 6:30 pm I noticed a secret service agent -- notable by his blue blazer, earpiece, and air of military alertness -- standing near the entrance of the hotel. There were also a few others -- men and women -- who appeared to be part of the security team.

A variety of people who -- by their facial features and bearing -- looked like Bush family members were ushered into the entrance of the hotel by one of the agents. Then at about 6:45 pm, the alpha agent and nine others bunched together near the entrance looking nervous. A moment later, a black Lincoln Continental limousine pulled up the circular gravel driveway to the entrance.

The rear door opened and I saw George H. W. Bush, who recently celebrated his 87th birthday, struggle to pull himself out of the car and into a standing position. His face was very red -- it looked like a combination of sunburn -- perhaps from spending the day on his boat and the exertion of pulling himself up. Someone settled the elder Bush into a wheelchair and pushed him quickly into the lobby. Meanwhile, the snowy-haired former first lady, exited the other door on her own and slowly waddled to the hotel lobby.

15 minutes later, a combination of secret service agents and hotel waiters formed a tight guard in front of the hotel entrance. Three tan Chevy Suburbans pulled into the hotel entry way. A tall bald secret service agent got out of one of the Suburbans and surveyed the area. Then the alpha secret service agent stood in front of the window of the right rear passenger door of the second suburban -- blocking the view of the person inside who was further obscured by bulletproof glass.

After an all clear, the agent opened the door and out popped George W. Bush. The medium-height former president sported a combination of white and grey hair, a very ruddy face (maybe he has spent some time on the water as well), and looked trim.

He pumped the hands of all nine of the people who were standing at the hotel entrance. One of them exclaimed "You look great!" to which the 43rd president said, "Well, I got out of there." Seeming happy to be out of Washington, he strode into the hotel. Meanwhile, Laura Bush made her way quietly out of the Suburban and past the phalanx of greeters.

For the next several hours as the sun set over the river, boats whizzed by the open doors of the restaurant that faced the river. All I could hear was a periodic tinkling of silverware against glasses, followed by silence, occasional laughter, and a round of applause.

The morning of July 3, an observer told me that he overheard snippets of a conversation among a few people in business attire at a local coffee shop discussing the nuptials of David Lauren and Lauren Bush.

I don't know if that conversation had anything to do with the previous evening's reception. Nor can I figure out whose wedding brought those two former presidents so close to where I stood gawking.


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