President Celebrates 60 With a Surprise Belt Buckle

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — After months of griping about getting old, President Bush turned 60 yesterday and decided it wasn’t so bad after all.

“Let me just say this: It’s a lot younger than you think,” the birthday boy said with a rueful smile.

There were surprises, a spilled secret, a song and congratulatory calls from afar.

President Hu of China and President Putin of Russia both wished Mr. Bush happy birthday in separate telephone conversations that focused on a less-cheerful subject: North Korea’s missile tests this week.

Prime Minister Harper of Canada, visiting the White House, also brought birthday greetings and a surprise gift. But Mr. Bush found out about it during a joint press conference in the East Room. A Canadian reporter blew the secret.

“Before I ask you a question, I’m just curious, what do you think of that belt buckle the prime minister gave you as a birthday gift, and are you wearing it?” the reporter asked Mr. Bush

“I hadn’t seen it yet,” the president replied, laughing. “You gave it away.”

The reporter continued on with another question but Mr. Bush kept talking about the present. “Anyway, thanks for the belt buckle in advance,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Harper.

“No problem at all,” the prime minister responded.

“Looking forward to getting it,” Mr. Bush said.

“I figure, if you’re going to be 60, you should get something,” Mr. Harper said.

“That’s right,” Mr. Bush said. “Just hope the belt fits.”

There was a surprise ending to the press conference when a reporter noted to Mr. Bush that it was his birthday, too. Mr. Bush invited the reporter, 54-year-old Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe and Asia Today, onto the stage for a birthday picture.

“Anybody else have their birthday today?” Mr. Bush called out.

Richard Benedetto of USA Today, turning 65, stood up and was summoned to the stage.

“Amazing, everybody’s birthday today,” Mr. Bush exclaimed.

Mr. Harper piped up, “I was going to say, if there starts to get any more, I’m going to start to question it.”

But there was another celebrant, State Department employee Todd Mizis, who was in the audience.

“My goodness,” Mr. Bush said. “Today’s your birthday? Awesome.”

There was time then for a song: a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

The big celebration of Mr. Bush’s birthday was on Tuesday when dozens of his friends gathered at the White House.

In recent months, Mr. Bush, in speech after speech, has referred to himself as the “old president, getting older by the minute,” as one of “the gray-haired folks,” as “getting older,” and as just flat-out “old.”


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