My Encounters With 41 [OPINION]
I cannot say that I ever really met George Herbert Walker Bush, having never been formally introduced to him, but I did speak to him twice and my questions were answered each time.
President Bush was, according to most accounts, a pretty decent guy. He was a celebrated war hero, humanitarian, businessman, ambassador, CIA Director, vice president, president and, of course, family man. Quite an impressive resume for sure.
I covered Bush when he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, during a campaign rally at Burlington International Airport in Vermont. It was a busy campaign that saw many candidates, including Bob Dole and Democrat Mike Dukakis, visit as well. For the record, Bernie Sanders was still mayor of Burlington but was making his first run for Congress that year. He lost, but Bush won the nomination and the presidency.
Candidate Pat Robertson made a ridiculous claim that day that Bush was somehow responsible for a hurricane that Fall, or some lunacy like that. I was able to out-yell the rest of the press corps; Bush responded to my question on the matter, and the answer was the lead story on the network news that evening.
Just two years later, I was a reporter in Providence when Bush was campaigning for Republican Congresswoman Claudine Schneider. The two had a public disagreement on abortion, as she was pro-choice and he was not. The issue was much more inflamed at the time than it is today, and his support for her appeared to be a contradiction.
After waiting for hours at a rope line with his campaign supporters, I came face-to-face with President Bush and asked him about his support for Schneider. At the same time, I lifted my concealed mini-cassette recorder to about face level to record his reply, which was some inane two or three-word mumbling about all views being welcome or something like that.
It was about that time that the Secret Service grabbed my arm and turned me into a life-sized Gumby doll, twisting me into a wretched heap on the floor before moving on. Bush never stopped moving down the line, and I don't think we even made eye contact. The entire thing lasted about 20 seconds.
The radio station heralded the three-word recording of Bush as "an exclusive interview," and I got a bonus. Go figure. I had a pretty sore arm for a few days, too.
When you consider that there have only been 45 people ever elected President of the United States, that is a pretty exclusive club. To have had the opportunity to interact even in a small way with any of them is really an honor and something to remember. When a president dies, a part of America dies, too.
Goodbye, 41, and thanks for the memories.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.