Learning one from the Gipper

The Sunday after finals week, I turned on the TV expecting tosee the usual riveting cat-stuck-up-a-tree stories on the localnews. Instead I was greeted with the sight of poker-facednewscasters droning on about Ronald Reagan’s memory. For a second Iwas confused – I thought Alzheimer’s had sapped what was left ofRonald Reagan’s memory. Then I realized what had happened. He’dfinally died at 93.

Flipping through the channels, half the news programs werecovering the Reagan story and the others were focusing on George W.Bush’s appearance at the sixtieth anniversary festivities for D-Dayin Normandy. The juxtaposition of these two iconic Republicanpresidents on all the major networks inescapably led to thoughts ofhow the death of one will affect the future of the other and youcan bet that George W.’s people are thinking carefully about thesame question right now.

President Bush’s future is very much up in the air right now. Heis neck-and-neck with Kerry in the polls, he’s got all kinds of eggon his face over his handling of Iraq and Michael Moore’s”Fahrenheit 9/11,” a polemic against his administration, was thenumber one movie in the country this weekend. If he could get somereflected glow from Ronald Reagan’s legacy as an extremely popularpresident, it could go a long way toward helping out his troubledcampaign. He’s going to need more than just Chicken Little warningsabout vague terrorist threats to keep the populace behind him;people are starting to wise up.

Bush is going to need lots of help if he wants to milk theReagan legacy, though, because the “great communicator” fromHollywood and the semi-literate rich kid from don’t have a hell ofa lot in common besides the same job title and party affiliation.Reagan was a master of marketing and media manipulation, and evenhis enemies couldn’t help but feel a warm, fuzzy feeling insidewhenever his rhetoric and outgoing personality took effect.

Bush is more of a blind ideologue who doesn’t put an awful lotof effort into acting like he cares whether the world agrees withhim or not. Of course, behind Reagan’s media-friendly image, thingswere a bit more sinister, with a skyrocketing budget deficit andmilitary actions of questionable legality (OK, so there are morethan two similarities between Reagan and Bush). But Reagan was anexpert at brushing off criticism without appearing to be brushingoff criticism. People couldn’t seem to help but like him. How canBush get some of that charm to rub off on him?

The Republican convention starts August 29 and runs throughSeptember 2 – a mere two months before the general election. Thereis no doubt Republicans will be looking to make a big impression.So who would be a galvanizing keynote speaker? Can you say NancyReagan? She has been a popular speaker at previous conventions, butthis year it would be a much more emotional appearance. I can justhear it now…

“If Ronnie were alive today, he would want all of you to supportGeorge W. Bush. He devoted his life to preserving the freedoms wetake for granted in this country and so will George. So let’s givemy husband one last victory to celebrate and re-elect Bush. I knowit’s what Ronnie would have wanted. So come on, everybody, let’swin one more for the Gipper and vote for George W. Bush in 2004!!”(last few words drowned out by deafening applause).

This kind of scenario probably isn’t the first thing on Nancy’smind right now, but it won’t be long before all the big Republicanparty big shots are going to be lining up to pose with her. Thiskind of scene is exactly what they want when the convention rollsaround.

The Bushies’ greatest accomplishment in the last four years(yes, it took me awhile to think of one) is how they perfected theart of the Inspirational Photo Op. Although the “MissionAccomplished” spot really turned around and bit them in the ass,they still have an excellent track record. So it’s not too hard tosee this next one coming.