President establishes work-life balancing act

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Since the start of his presidency, George Bush has taken heat for his regular naps, two-hour breaks for exercise, and those long "working vacations" in Texas. Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft once quipped that the White House was committed to working "24/7 — 24 hours a week, seven months a year." So as the president enters the home stretch of his five-week respite in Crawford, Texas, an old debate is being renewed: What's the proper work-life balance for a president?

"Bush reflects ... an exceptionally good work-life balance at the level he's at," says Jim Bird, CEO of Atlanta-based

Critics, however, charge Bush with setting a bad example. A reported tally of his time in office shows he has spent as much as 20 percent of his days in Crawford. In fact, this Sunday, Bush passed President Reagan for most days spent away from the Oval Office.

"We're the hardest-working people in the world, and we have a president who seems to not only be working bankers' hours, but taking French bankers' vacation," said Rick Shenkman, a presidential historian who wrote "Presidential Ambition: Gaining Power at Any Cost."

But Shenkman, who rates James Polk as the nation's hardest-working president and Warren Harding as its laziest, cautioned that a true picture of Bush's work ethic won't be known until he leaves office. He cited Reagan, who was teased for keeping light office hours and once joked: "It's true, hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"

Later, scholars revised their views when evidence emerged that Reagan spent many evenings poring through stacks of papers and digests.

It's somewhat unfair to accuse a president who generally works very hard ... for taking five weeks off," said Barbara Kellerman, research director at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "It's not as if Bush is sitting on a recliner."

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