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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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 :: Jonathan Pait
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Hello, Mr. President
Jonathan Pait
September 6, 2001

A friend of mine asked me a thought-provoking question today. He travels to Washington this weekend to take part in a convention there. It appears that George W. Bush may attend the meeting. My friend asked, “If you were to have the opportunity to meet President Bush, what would you say?”

What would I say? Hmmmmm. It would probably depend on the mood I find myself in at the time.

I shook his hand once before he became the President. He entered an office I was in to meet with some dignitaries. I startled him because I was standing behind the door as he entered. Obviously, not being a dignitary, I was getting ready to leave when he arrived. That time, all I said was, “Hello, nice to meet you, sir.” I shook his hand and beat a hasty retreat from the presence of the dignitaries.

I remember he seemed shorter than I expected. However, his bearing was very confident and relaxed. You felt at ease with him immediately. There seemed to be a twinkle in his eye—even when he appeared startled by a skinny, be speckled kid unexpectedly stepping out from behind a door. Thinking back, I was probably fortunate that his security detail had stayed back in the hall as he entered. Some of those guys on the Texas governor’s security detail are big.

Most people are struck by the difference between Bush’s platform demeanor and his aura when meeting in smaller groups. It is a marked difference between Bush and Keyes. I mention Alan Keyes because I met him just a couple of weeks after my encounter with Bush. While Keyes is magnificent on the platform, he seemed weaker in a small group. A master at expressing himself from the podium, he carried that same attitude to the smaller group.

The problem is, smaller groups require give and take. Participants need to sense they are included at the table. Keyes did not foster that environment by simply walking into the room. Bush did. At the same time, everyone knows that Bush’s attitude at the podium could take some lessons from Keyes!

At the time I thought that Bush would be the better President because the bulk of his job takes place in cabinet meetings and situations where he is lobbying for his cause—not before a camera, but face-to-face with lawmakers. We could survive his poor performance in the media as long as he got the job done off mike.

Now it is his actions off camera that concern me. An administration that I thought was going to be up-front and forward moving seems to be as wishy-washy as any others that have been up there. Rumors abound that the political machine that originates from the Bush White House puts Bill Clinton’s operation to shame. It certainly is not a return to Reagan as I had timidly hoped.

I guess the question that I would ask—because it would have to be a question. I couldn’t keep myself to a nod of the head, a shake of the hand and a simple, “Mr. President.” I think I would ask him, “Are you the same man I shook hands with before the election?”

What would you say? Click on the “Comment on this article” button. Close your eyes and pretend you are shaking his hand. What would you say? Now, open your eyes and let us know what popped out. Maybe my friend will have a chance to use your idea.

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