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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Hey, a visit from the President of the United States! This figured to bring more excitement to San Diego than a baseball team trying to perform the mathematically unlikely feat of winning the pennant while losing more games than it wins.

Something like our current war.

The hoi polloi were kept outside the fence at North Island, far from their leader. But inside, things were nice, neat and predictable. The president, as he should be, was well-protected. Patrol boats were visible in the background. Even a TBM Avenger, his dad’s WWII plane, was there, as a symbol of his dad’s service. An F-111, the plane he learned to fly, but seldom did, wasn’t there. Not all symbols evoke the “right” memories.

The young service men and women cheered right on cue. Furthermore, they’re getting better at it. Perhaps it’s because of the indomitable spirit we hear of, or it could be because their cued cheering is better rehearsed. A while back I even read where the other services were, as usual, wanting to emulate the spirit of the Marines. The Air Force, in particular, wanted to come up with their own version of “Oooh Rahhh.”

“Oooh Rahhh,” or whatever the flyboys come up with, is fine for an athletic contest, but I’d like to see some plain old give and take between my president and his public, even if it isn’t earthshaking. I remember 45 years ago, when President Eisenhower visited the San Diego Country Club, appropriately enough located in Chula Vista. A young woman managed to walk right up to him and ask him if he could do something about her husband, who was restricted to the ship. Recognizing a publicity coup when he saw it, Ike promised to take care of it. The kid got sprung thanks to political influence.

But political influence ought to work both ways and it won’t with a president who isolates himself. Our current commander in chief brags about his deliberate ignorance of things he doesn’t want to hear about. He admits he refuses to read a paper or watch television news. You have to wonder what he might do if he paid attention.

It’s painfully obvious he will not even speak to a live audience unless they are screened. Just a couple weeks ago he visited Salt Lake City, a safe city if you ever saw one, to give a talk to the VFW. The old vets cheered him lustily even though, when given a chance to earn his credentials to serve in a foreign war, he opted out.

That may have been why one old guy in the Salt Lake City audience replaced his hearing aid with a plug bearing the message “Bulls-t Filter.” I bet that old dude just lost his credentials for the next speech, possibly his membership in the most jingoistic of clubs.

As an old sailor, I’d like to ask him a nautical question. “Mr. President, every captain I knew was willing to make a sharp turn when it was obvious they were headed for the rocks and shoals. How long are you going to stay the course?”

Others have simpler questions. Take Cindy Sheehan. She just wanted to ask him why her son died. Giving her an acceptable answer, and thus avoiding a ton of bad publicity, would have been duck soup to the 42 guys who preceded Bush in the White House. But number 43 doesn’t do well unless he’s reading a script or reciting bromides. Otherwise, he’s liable to say something like: “Put food on your family.” At least, if we have to have a Texan for president, give us one, like LBJ, who can ad lib a simple scenario.

Someone should get this guy a copy of the poignant letters Abraham Lincoln sent to mothers of fallen soldiers. Then someone else should make him read them.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer. He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com

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