OK, everybody, we've had some heated political discussion on here, but I'd like to set that aside for a minute to share some insight about President Bush.
He made a refueling stop here yesterday on his way to Asia. Rather than just sit on the plane, he got off and came into a big hangar for a rally. We got to sit in the DV section, where we got to meet the governor and her husband, as well as Ted Stevens.
The President gave a terrific short speech, and then started working the crowd line. A few minutes later a White House staffer came up to my wife and I and asked if we'd come with her because the President wanted to meet us. So she took us and the two sons we had with us to a conference room off to the side of the hangar, asked us to wait, and left the four of us alone.
So there we were, alone in the room. Ted Stevens had left his jacket in there, and his cel phone started vibrating. We didn't answer.
Pretty soon, the Secret Service opened the door, and the President walked in. I thought maybe it would be a quick grip and grin, take a couple photos kind of thing. Wrong. He walked right up to my wife, expressed his condolences for the loss of our son, and gave her a big hug and kiss (I am absolutely not kidding). Then he grabbed me for a hug, and then each of our sons. Then he told the Secret Service to leave the room, and suddenly the four of us were alone in the room with President Bush.
He said, "Come on, let's sit down and talk for awhile." He pulled up a chair next to us, slumped down, relaxed completely, and spent about 15 minutes visiting with us like a brother-in-law at a barbecue. There was no pretense, no rhetoric, and we were seeing the regular guy his family sees. Topics covered our son, Iraq, his job, relationship with Laura, faith, and even Cindy Sheehan (who he said should be pitied for giving in to anger after tragedy), and others. He talked to each of our sons, asked them what they wanted to become in life, and shared his perspective with each of them.
He said the thing he's going to miss most about the job is being Commander in Chief. One of the things he stressed to our boys was to hold to their convictions and not worry about trying to be the "cool" guy. He said he'd taken a lot of heat in his job, but was proud to say he never sold his soul. He said how sorry he was for our loss, and said how much he valued opportunities to meet with families like ours because of the sense of responsibility he felt knowing that our son died because of a decision he made.
In the end, he thanked us for giving him a few minutes to sit down, and just said, "OK, let's get some pictures." The doors immediately popped open (Secret Service had kept them cracked and was listening to every word) and the White House photographer took individual photos of us with him and family photos. He gave us each one of his personal Presidential coins, thanked us for our service and sacrifice, and was out the door to meet with some cops and firefighters. Before he left, he even made it a point to meet the guys who refueled his plane.
I've been to a lot of receiving lines. I've been to photo opportunities. I've seen fake. He could've just given us a handshake and we would've been set for life. But instead he put the world on hold to visit and let us get to know him on a personal level. Say what you want about politics, but that's a good man.