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BUSH returns to Maine family home for brief vacation

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) _ Celebrating his 55th birthday at a place that has been a family bastion for generations, President Bush has just one goal: to make an early tee time and shoot the lowest golf score he can manage.

Bush has enjoyed the Atlantic views from the big stone and shingle house on Walker's Point virtually every year of his life.

``It's part of his family,'' said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer when asked about the relationship between the president and the house at Kennebunkport.

``Kennebunkport is a place where his parents and grandparents spent an awful lot of time; he just wants to spend time with his parents and his friends,'' Fleisher said Thursday shortly after Bush's plane landed in a downpour. ``That remains the same whether he is president or governor or a private citizen.''

As for recreation, ``he just wants to shoot as low a score as possible playing golf,'' Fleischer said.

There will also be a birthday dinner at the family house.

Arriving in Maine, a knot of hardy residents ignored the rain to greet the president's motorcade as it rolled up to the family house. ``Welcome to Maine. Happy Birthday,'' one sign said.

Flying outside the estate were an American flag, the presidential flag, Maine's state flag as well as the state flags of both Texas and Florida.

The family group includes Bush's parents, former President Bush and Barbara Bush, sister Dorothy and brother Jeb, the governor of Florida. There are also the presidential dogs, Scottish terrier Barney and springer spaniel, Spot.

The president's mini vacation in Maine represents a change of pace, at least for this year. Bush and first lady Laura Bush have visited their ranch near Crawford, Texas, six times since Inauguration Day and plan to spend a three-week vacation there in August.

The president's father was the first Bush to turn the oceanfront home in Maine into a summer White House. He golfed, fished, raced his speedboat and jogged _ all at a frantic pace _ during Kennebunkport stays.

The last time Bush came to Kennebunkport was in June 2000, when he and his brothers and sister met for a birthday party for their mother.

The former president has spent at least part of every summer since childhood here, except when he was in the Navy during World War II. Residents have watched George W. and the other Bush children grow up here.

But this is also the place where, in 1976, after a Labor Day weekend visit to a bar, George W. Bush was arrested. He pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Bush kept the incident under wraps throughout his political career, but was forced to acknowledge it when the arrest report surfaced late in the 2000 presidential campaign.
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