Monday, February 07, 2005

Happy Birthday to Ron and Me

Yesterday was my birthday. It was also Ronald Reagan's birthday. Ronald Reagan is the reason I am a republican...most of the time.

As a child, growing up in central PA, I only got a few television stations. Each time the President was on TV, I watched. I never really understood what he was saying. I was very young and he was using very big words. But, I was fascinated nonetheless. When I did understand what he was saying, I agreed. I didn't have the Vietnam War or Watergate cynicism evident in the reporters that commented on his appearances, so I usually disagreed with them. I also was touched by the Reagan magic that made it seem he was talking directly to me.

When I graduated high school, I joined the Navy and ended up stationed at the Quantico Marine Corps base (I was a corpsman) where I met President Reagan face to face. He was there for a horse ride at the stables. Apparently, he did that rather frequently. I was lucky enough to be part of the crew deployed to support the President's visit. He made it a point to shake each of our hands and ask us a small talk type question. It was a huge waste of time for a man with so much more to do, but he stopped, to talk to a few service members that were likely to vote for him anyway. There was no press and no mention of it anywhere other than the base paper.

I met him for a second time when he and President Bush 41 went to Quantico for a round of golf. Again, my republicanism was reinforced when both men took the time to thank the servicemen present. But, I was especially joyed at the fact that Reagan remembered me.

On the other hand, President Clinton never came to Quantico and the stories I heard from friends that worked in the White House Communications Office totally turned me off.

Ronald Reagan is the reason I am a republican and George W. Bush is the reason I still am. He's learned the Reagan lessons of being a human, not just a politician. I provide as evidence of this, three things.

1. He went to Bagdad on Thanksgiving. He didn't have to do it. It was dangerous for him personally. But, he wanted to show his solidarity and thanks to the troops. No matter how the media portrayed this, he did it for the troops. Was the danger he faced worth the publicity at a time well before the election was heating up? I think not.

2. Donald Rumsfeld did take responsibility for Abu Graihb. He offered his resignation on two seperate occasions. But, President Bush realized that Rumsfeld is well liked and respected by the men in the field. He didn't want to change leaders in the midst of the conflict. It would have gained him votes and made his political life easier if he let Rumsfeld take the fall. But, he thought of the troops first.

3. He retroactively increased death benefits paid to families of service members killed in action. He could have done this before the election and gained some votes, but by waiting until after the election, he sent the clear message that he sincerely cared about the troops and what happened to their families.

President Bush is a great man following in the footsteps of one of the greatest President's the United States ever had.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President - to both of us.

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