Bush sends Christmas wishes... for a prosperous new year

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The Independent US

More than one million Americans will open their letter boxes next week to find a Christmas card from President George Bush and his wife, Laura ­ an operation which uncharitable souls might suggest has less to do with an exchange of warm, personal greetings than a party political postal blitz.

No less than 1.5 million cards ­ each postmarked Crawford, Texas, home of the presidential ranch ­ will be sent to "friends and family" of the first couple, as well as unspecified "foreign dignitaries". Even though Mr Bush is known as an affable and gregarious fellow, the circle of acquaintances is wide even by the standards of "personalised" mass mailings made possible by today's technology.

Presidential cards are rarely great monuments to taste, oscillating generally between Yuletide corn or chintzy modernity. Indeed, the Clintons' final effort in 2000 featured Socks, the White House cat. The 2003Bush vintage is no exception to the rule. The design is a watercolour painting of the fireplace and mantelpiece of the diplomatic reception room of the White House. The message inside contains a line from the Psalms: "You have granted me life and loving kindness; and your care has preserved my spirit." And, the President might have added, "Now grant me a second term".

The first official White House cards were sent by the Eisenhowers in the 1950s. The rarest are those of 1963, hand-signed by President John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie. By the time of his death, on 22 November, only 30 of the 500 prepared cards had been completed with both signatures. After the assassination, JFK's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, preserved them for posterity. The cards were not found until 1985, and are now immensely valuable collectors' items.

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