Bush clearly was dreaming of that day as he stood at the grand
opening of the Reagan Library Air Force One Pavilion, with wife
Laura and Nancy Reagan by his side. He beheld the faces of a sea
of survivors of the Reagan administration.
Gov. Pete Wilson, once vilified, is now how held up as an example
for GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Reagan's former attorney general,
Ed Meese, endured a spate of scandals that would humble Bush guru
Karl Rove. Former Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian weathered
many brutal political campaigns.
the survivors to put it all behind them -- Iran-Contra, the god-awful
Beirut-barracks bombing that left 241 American servicemembers
dead, a massive deficit, ketchup as a vegetable. Today, the world
remembers the Westminster speech in which he laid out his belief
that freedom would triumph over communism, the Normandy speech
and the day an American president uttered the words, "Mr.
Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
hear the words Ronald Wilson Reagan and they smile. No wonder,
then, that Bush used the occasion of this ceremony to jump on
the Gipper's bandwagon. Conservatives (rightly) are angry that
Bush allowed the federal government to balloon and (foolishly)
miffed that he chose a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court who
wasn't a member of their club.
of course, is hitting Bush for the deficit, as well. And from
all sides, there is the constant carping on Iraq -- from those
who want more troops, a withdrawal date -- and who barely give
a nod to a successful voter-approval of the Iraqi constitution.
And so Bush
reminded the people before him about how his term will look if
America succeeds in Iraq. U.S. Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., picked
up the theme, when he said after the Bush speech that both presidents
had the "spirit to take on an -ism" -- communism and
belittled for calling terrorists the "evildoers," Bush
reminded the audience how Reagan defeated "the evil empire."
And Dubya didn't need to remind this crowd of the ridicule Reagan
endured for using that term.
made an unwitting connection when she recalled her final flight
with Reagan on Air Force One as they left the White House in 1989.
"As the champagne was poured and glasses were raised, someone
shouted: 'Mission accomplished, Mr. President. Mission accomplished.'"
Sen. Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, remembered the days when
he was a "flunky junior nobody" in the Reagan administration.
"The first Gorbachev summit," he noted, "ended
in 'failure' because Reagan wouldn't give away the store."
But it wasn't failure.
It was an
episode in a campaign won, Bush noted, because of Reagan's "resolve."
While Bush is different in many ways -- Reagan was supremely confident
in himself and secure in his skin; for all his bluster, Bush is
less self-assured -- they both shared a vision of what this world
And so as
political heat blasted this administration, amid stories of a
petty feud with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and as serious legal
problems threaten top White House aides, Bush had reason to dream
of the day when the rancor is past -- the day when a president's
children are no longer the stuff of negative stories, his work
habits no longer the stuff of derision and his speech no longer
fodder for late-night talk shows.
sees Bush depends completely on what happens in Iraq and the war
on terrorism. While the outcome is uncertain, the goal, to Bush,
the widower of Maureen Reagan, mused: "History is seldom
an instantaneous pat on the back. That time will come for this
president, as well."