RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – It's no secret that President Bush is a man who follows the adage, "Early to bed, early to rise ... " He likes to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. and is so particular about sleeping that during the 2000 presidential campaign he was known to travel with his own pillow.
In her famous 2005 monologue at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, First Lady Laura Bush joked: "I said to him the other day, 'George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later.'"
He appears to be following her advice.
Monday's palace meeting with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah – an 83-year-old night-owl who often does business after midnight – is scheduled for the unheard (for Bush) hour of 9:05 p.m. In another departure from the president's usual pattern, the meeting is after dinner, not before. White House officials say the schedule was set at the king's request.
"You know, this is a matter of great sensitivity," a senior administration official said with a smile.
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National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was asked if it was the latest meeting Bush has ever scheduled.
"I don't know," he said. "It sort of depends on which time zone – are we on Washington time? Are we on Saudi time? I don't know."
Scheduling official meetings late in the day is an Arab custom – the tradition stems from the fact that is so hot during the day for most of the year. Monday's meeting with the Saudi king will be the latest night during Bush's eight-day Mideast trip which has included stops in Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.