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President takes Buddy south for annual family retreat; Socks stays home

December 30, 1997

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) _ The morning after Washington’s first snowfall, President Clinton and his Buddy escaped southward Tuesday for golf and gab at an annual New Year’s retreat with 500 other families. Socks, the family cat, was left behind.

For the president, Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, the high-minded and invitation-only Renaissance Weekend is a 14-year family tradition. Clinton brought little homework along for six days of planned respite, split between here and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

``Mostly I just want to sit around and talk to Hillary and Chelsea, think about next year, finish my planning,″ Clinton said.

Golf and touch football were the only other items on his to-do list. Barely 20 minutes after arriving, Clinton was on the first tee with Alan Solomont, national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee; CBS president Leslie Moonves; and Woody Morcott, CEO of the Dana Corporation.

Other activities at the closed-door retreat include a New Year’s Eve sing-a-long and free-ranging seminars and discussions on topics such as global climate change, big-game hunting and ``What my spouse is wrong about,″ which carried a three-minute limit for individual contributions.

``I wish I could spend more time there,″ Clinton said of the eclectic gathering of achievers from business, medicine, religion, academia, politics and sports. ``You see all kinds of people. ... When I’m around other people, normally they want to ask me about something. Here I get to listen.″

The retreat is organized by Clinton friends Phil Lader, now ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Linda.

While Buddy, the president’s new Labrador pup, took his maiden flight aboard Air Force One to join the family, their cat, Socks, was left at home in the care of the White House usher.

``He’s a happy little camper,″ Clinton said of Buddy, who is skittish about steps and had to be carried on and off Air Force One by his commander-in-chief. On board, the 4-month-old dog curled up on a couch in Clinton’s office and nuzzled a baby-blue wool blanket emblazoned with the presidential seal.

The VIP treatment was not likely to help relations back home with Socks. ``When I get back, it’s my first project,″ the president said. ``I’m going to have them totally reconciled.″

On that topic, Clinton wondered aloud whether he should have had Socks de-clawed years ago.

Tuesday morning, the Clintons left behind a Washington lightly dusted with winter’s first snow, and found South Carolina sunnier but hardly warmer. Chelsea and Mrs. Clinton burrowed into their coats as a stiff wind greeted them at the Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station.

On Thursday, they planned to head further south, to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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