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franklin county times

In my own words…
A tale of two presidents: George W. and me

By Staff
Sept. 30, 2001
It was the early 1980s, and I was on the tail end of a decidedly unspectacular career as a journalist. My assignment was to cover the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet in a small East Texas city. The keynote speaker was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers professional baseball club. He just happened to also be the son of the vice president of the United States.
They called him George Bush Jr., back in those days. Everybody assumed he was a true "junior." All this "W" stuff was unbeknownst to the general public. Perhaps he was better off back then to be considered a true "Junior." After all, there was already talk of his daddy being the next president, following in the footsteps of his wildly-popular boss, Ronald Reagan.
That year marked about the third time I had covered the Chamber sleeper. I remember that in the previous year, the legendary Minnie Pearl of "Hee-Haw" fame was the keynote speaker. She was a real trip. How-deeee!!!
Funny George W. Bush didn't speak much about his famous father that evening. Mostly, he talked about his mother, Barbara, and of family values.
At the evening's end, I met with Mr. Bush one-on-one for the obligatory interview. Asked him all the standard questions, like, "What is it like to be the son of the vice president of the United States?" And, "Do you think your father will be our next president?" And, "Do you think you'll ever enter politics yourself?"
To the latter query, I honestly can't recall what his response might have been. But I think it was, "No." I guess he was having too much fun with the Rangers at the time, making astute deals like trading away Sammy Sosa to the White Sox.
I am satisfied as to one thing. Neither of us at that time thought we'd ever be presidents, he of the country and me of a community college.
The years passed, and George W. did, of course, enter the political arena. In fact, he became my governor in Texas. And as the president of a Texas community college, it became my job to try to foster good relations with him, just as I try to do with Ronnie Musgrove today.
That's an interesting parallel, too. George W., in Texas, was not constitutionally the most powerful state official. Far from it. That stature most assuredly belonged to the lieutenant governor. Some would argue the same holds true in Mississippi.
No, George W.'s big power in Texas was not a product of law, rather personality. He had a kind of down-to-earth knack for pulling constituencies together that had formerly been at odds. Even his political adversaries respected that about him.
About the time I left Texas for Meridian, the rumors that George W. was going to run for president were pretty rampant. I had the opportunity to quiz him about that at a luncheon in Pampa, Texas.
Coyly, I asked, "Governor, are we going to be able to keep you in Texas? Everyone says you're headed for Washington."
To which he replied with expected political correctness, "All I can say is that I am very worried about our country." His reference, obviously, was to his disdain for Bill Clinton, the man who in 1992 sent his father packing. (By the way, Clinton wasn't really George Sr.'s undoing. Ross Perot swung that election, in my view.)
For all my interactions with George W., I readily admit that I didn't initially support his bid for the presidency. Hero-worshiper that I am, John McCain was my guy.
Well, I still have great respect for Sen. McCain, but George W. is my president now. And I earnestly pray that God is in his corner today.
Nothing less than Divine intervention will suffice to right this troubled world.
One thing's for certain. George W., is a heckuva lot better at speech-making today than he was back in the early '80s. To that much, I can personally attest.
Dr. Scott Elliott is president of Meridian Community College.

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