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President Bush wraps up trip to Utah, departs

By , | Posted - May 29th, 2008 @ 10:05pm


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President Bush left Utah today after a whirlwind visit focused on raising money for the Republican Party.

The president departed this morning just before 10:00 after attending fundraisers in Salt Lake City and Park City. His goal was to raise money for the Republican Party, and it safe to say there are a few million more in the coffers after his stop in Utah.

In terms of a visit by President Bush, this one was longer than some of the previous visits; he was in the state for about 19 hours.

Sen. Orrin Hatch was among those who dined with the president last night at Mitt Romney's home in Deer Valley. We caught up with him at an officer memorial service today and asked him how last night's dinner went.

"There was a significant crowd there. I presume they raised quite a bit of money for John McCain," Sen. Hatch said. He also told us, "Last night he must have spoken for an hour and a half, two hours answering questions. It was a rare time he was willing to stand there, let his hair down, answer questions and talk person to person."

After two the fundraisers yesterday, he spent the night in the Park City-Deer Valley area. And this morning, at about 8:00, he returned to Salt Lake International on the Marine One helicopter. Five presidential choppers came to Utah on this visit -- the first time that's happened.

After he landed, he immediately got into his limousine, and the motorcade went to the offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he met with members of the First Presidency. This was his first opportunity to meet with President Thomas S. Monson since he became leader of the Church.

We don't know what President Bush and President Monson talked about, but Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, said today that the president never misses an opportunity to meet with Latter-day Saint Church leaders because they "spread the word of love."

Yesterday evening, President Monson and his second counselor, President Dieter Uchtdorf, toured Air Force One. The tour was of particular interest to President Uchtdorf, who is a former Lufthansa pilot.

When President Bush came to Salt Lake in August 2006 to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he visited with then-President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors. Also, in February of 2002, the president and first lady joined President Hinckley for a photo opportunity before opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

It's clear that LDS Church leaders have enjoyed a warm relationship with President Bush.

Mr. Bush's entourage returned to the airport at about 9:25 a.m. Waiting to get an up-close look were about 100 members of the Utah Air Guard.

We were told, at the time, that the president might come over and shake hands and pose for photos. The group groaned a bit when the president headed straight from the limo to the stairs of Air Force One. Understandable, perhaps, because it was raining and there was some lightning seen across the valley.

The scheduled departure time was 9:40 a.m., and sure enough, it lifted off the runway right at that time.

The president is headed to Kansas, where he's making yet another fundraising appearance for a congressional candidate there.

And it cost a lot of money to have the president as a guest. The Summit County Sheriff's Department told us it will cost taxpayers in that county about $35,000-$45,000 for the visit, with all the added security and road blocks.

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