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Commentary: Bush’s death prompts longing for ‘good ole days’

Commentary: Bush’s death prompts longing for ‘good ole days’
December 06
00:00 2018

By Ron Rogers

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush this past weekend really hit me. How time flies, eh?

He died at age 94. My first real knowledge of him came on a cold night in January 1980. I was a news clerk for the now defunct Richmond News Leader. My job was to gather the copy and stories from the high-speed printers, separate them and leave them for the editors that came in starting at 5 in the morning. The News Leader was an afternoon paper.

That night was the night of the Iowa caucus. Ronald Reagan, the conservative’s darling, was expected to win easily, but a candidate named George Bush had other plans. He pulled off an upset that shook the political world and got Reagan to get off his duff and fight for the GOP nomination for president.  Bush continued to challenge Reagan, but in the end he could not stop the Gipper’s steamroller.

Bush did go on to become Reagan’s running mate. Over the years, I sort of liked Bush until 1988, when he ran for president. Now we’re getting personal.

During the campaign, Bush and Michael Dukakis decided on a number of debates for the fall campaign. I was the graphics editor at the Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Alabama. Birmingham, which was about 70 miles from where I worked, was added to the list of debate sites.

Sensing a creative opportunity, I could attend, draw sketches and cartoons of the event and share them on The New York Times Regional Network (NYTRENG). I ran the idea by my editor, Rusty Starr, who said go for it. I put in for credentials to attend, which I got. A few weeks later, I saw on the front page of the Birmingham Post-Herald that Bush and his campaign decided to drop the number of debates and Birmingham was one of the sites. Talk about angry; the guy dumped on my plans. I drew a lot of cartoons during that campaign. One of them had Bush hiding in a turtle’s shell behind a debate podium (Ouch!).

Bush went on to win the presidency. He did a lot of things I did not like and a few things that I did like. What really changed my attitude was how he handled the Gulf War. He had smart generals and aides around him. He considered the results of his actions and took the risk. How presidential of him.

The run up to that war was really challenging for me.  I did not support President Bush heading for war. The atmosphere was rough. Under President Bush’s leadership, the war was short with some casualties (News reports were predicting the possibility of 20,000 body bags being in the ready just in case.).

I did not support President Bush in 1992. I was a Clinton voter. But I never lost respect for him. He was a great wartime president and former president. His passing makes us long to have somebody in the oval office that we know will have our backs as a country.

Ron Rogers is an editorial cartoonist whose cartoons appear in The Chronicle.

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