Good Luck

August 23rd, 2019

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


For a short time in 1992, I really didn’t know the country I called home.

It was just a momentary lapse, but at the ripe old age of 21, my life was rocked when Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush for the presidency.

Until then, all but four years of my life were under Republican presidents, and I was an early identifier with the GOP after watching a re-run of the 1972 Republican National Convention on C-SPAN when I was in the fourth grade. Listening to Nixon provide a view for the future was something special, and I knew the kind of America I wanted for everyone.

But for a short moment, it seemed that America was gone when Clinton defeated Bush.

From the fourth grade until my senior year, Ronald Reagan was the president, and I can still remember listening to the radio report on my bike the summer of 1980 when the surprise announcement came that George Bush would be Reagan’s running mate.

Like many in the 1980s, I was touched by Reagan, and that’s why he won 49 states for his re-election in 1984.

And his right-hand man was Bush.

But when Reagan’s second term was over, he passed the torch to Bush, and Bush was his own man.

He had a vision for the nation, something he called a “kinder, gentler nation,” one that would show that the answer to every international crisis did not always have to end with a military response.

He had a vision to reduce the deficit, and his only political mistake, as viewed by the voters, was compromising with the Democrats on a modest tax increase after making a campaign pledge — No new taxes.

During my senior year, Reagan’s tenure as president was coming to a close, and Bush was facing Michael Dukakis to be the next president.

But Bush became a hard-hitting campaigner, and he made up a huge deficit, trailing by 18 points in the polls in July and surging back to win by eight points.

Bush carried 40 states in his victory, a feat that has not been done since. And he carried 53.6  percent of the popular vote. Again, no one has carried that much since, not even the great Barack Obama who was considered to have a landslide victory (52.9 percent in 2008 and 51.1 percent in 2012).

On Election Day my senior year, I had a special shirt made at T-Prints in the Southgate Mall. It was a white mesh with ride, white and blue stripes on the short-sleeve shoulders, and it said, “President Bush” on the back.

One of my teachers, form the other side of the fence, said to me, “I can’t wait to see the look on your face tomorrow.”

I replied, “I was thinking the same thing.”

Turns out, I had a pretty good look on my face.

But Bush might have been the last bipartisan president to occupy the White House with the exception of Clinton’s support for the “Contract with America” presented by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Bush guided us through the response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, running Saddam Hussein’s military all the way back to Baghdad and then pulling our troops back in less than two weeks.

History has shown how wise that move was.

After eight years of economic progress under Reagan, Bush had to deal with a lull, but he laid the groundwork for success to come, something that greatly benefitted Clinton.

And so it was that after Clinton was elected in 1992 that I watched dumbfounded at the celebration in Arkansas.

How could this happen to such a good man?

I thought that perhaps I should consider a move to another part of the country, perhaps Texas or Alabama, where people still believed in positive conservative values.

And then I saw a red stripe down the middle of America the next day, showing where Bush was supported, and I was in the heart of it.

Kansas had come through for Bush, and every state form North Dakota to Texas had done the same.

I was where I belonged.

Only a couple days later, Kansas Senator Bob Dole told President Bush at a breakfast that he deserved a better outcome, and had Ross Perot not siphoned off 19.7 million votes, perhaps Bush would have easily won election since he only lost by 4.8 million.

I grew up a little that day, and I learned a great deal from Bush in how to handle defeat.

History will judge George Herbert Walker Bush to be the best one-term president ever.

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