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Sunday, 2 April 2006

image for Bush buys Mazda's new "pot smuggler" minivan
A Mazda salesman explains the Stasher's features to its new owner

WASHINGTON - President Bush invested Monday in a Stasher, Mazda's new "pot smuggler" minivan model, and he confirmed plans to hit the road for spring break this year, his first such trip in three years.

After completing the transaction at Rick Shows Mazda/Nissan in suburban Washington, Bush told reporters the Stasher's redesigned hidden compartments were a big draw, since they're "perfect" for smuggling marijuana and other illicit substances popular for long road trips.

"It's also a gasoline-electric hybrid, promising super-efficient fuel consumption," Bush said of the vehicle. "We're doing a monster road trip for spring break, and the savings mean I won't have to dip too deep into my stash money."

Mazda touts the Stasher as break-through technology in drug-smuggling capability. The redesigned minivan boasts a bevy of factory-standard hidden compartments, including false bottoms near the rear tire wells and hollowed-out sections within the rear bumper. Analysts say the extra-large storage areas provide plenty of room for packing contraband in coffee or other substances typically used to throw off drug-sniffing dogs.

The bill of sale, made public after a Freedom of Information Act request, showed Bush paid $29,422.39 for the 2006 model, taking advantage of a $1,500 rebate while making a $3,000 cash down-payment. The remainder was financed on a 60-month, 2.4% APR car loan through First Federal Employees Credit Union in Washington.

Bush bought the top-of-the-line LX package, which includes a rearview mirror with digital exterior-temperature and compass display, sunroof and 6-CD changer, among other amenities. Bush also opted for the towing package, according to sale documents.

"He hammered us, and he got a really good deal," said Eric Stanowicz, the Rick Shows salesman who brokered the deal. "Mazda Financing probably could have done a little better on the interest rate, but he didn't do bad at all, and I think the leader of the free world is more interested in going through the hometown business," Stanowicz said of Bush.

Meanwhile, at a news conference later that day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would accompany Bush on spring break, while another unnamed fourth passenger could take part as well.

"The president and Secretary Rumsfeld are really tight, so obviously (Rumsfeld) was in. And let's face it, with all that Vice President Cheney has been though lately, he could really use a break," McClellan said.

McClellan would not comment, however, on the identity of a potential fourth. Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity say the leading candidate is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"That's really the president's prerogative, and I'm sure he'll make an announcement when the time is appropriate," McClellan said when asked about Gonzales. "I can tell you that with their ice chests and other gear, they don't want to be loaded down, so I wouldn't assume that there will be a fourth."

While confirming the road trip Monday, Bush said that his spring break destination has not been finalized.

"With all the hurricanes, Florida is out," he said, referencing his last spring-break trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2003. "Secretary Rumsfeld has been itching for South Padre (Island, Texas). I haven't been there yet for spring break, and I hear it's killer."

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