Fri, 16 Jan 2009 17:35:52 +0000 – By Peggy DooleyWriter/Editor, FOX News Channel
Saturday, January 10, Norfolk, Virginia
As the current president bids farewell and the rest of Washington is agog in preparation for the next, the commissioning of the USS George HW Bush marks an island in time where Bushes are still cool and even Dick Cheney merits enthusiastic cheers and whistles.
[caption id="attachment_5535" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jan. 9: Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush arrives at the USS George H.W. Bush for a tour. (AP)"][/caption]
"Would you look at the hardware on that guy?"
The Marine Master Sergeant is standing at a table in the lunch tent following the commissioning ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush at Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. The row of medals lining his breast is enough to set off every mag on the perimeter.
The Master Sergeant -- Master Sergeant Badboy we decide to call him -- is standing because everyone in uniform in this VIP gold-ticket tent, everyone from the admirals on down, is stopping to talk to him.
Twenty thousand were gathered for the ceremony to herald the last of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers and the man whose name it will bear -- the ultimate piece of hardware, you might call it.
Our 41st president calls it "the last big thing in my life." For his family and fans and former staffers, it was one last happy respite in Bush World before the New Era of Obama kicks off.
It's a nice place, Bush World. A place where duty and service rank high, and rank ranks right up there, too -- or at least an appreciation for it.
It took the Earnest Rotarian manning the USS GHWB table in the lobby of my hotel less than a minute to suss out that I was a lowly white-ticket holder ("Oh, well then you have plenty of time for a tour of the base today, seeing as you won't be going to the reception ..."). Happily, my cohort Dylan, a master at finessing such things, quickly has a gold ticket in my hand, which is why I am in the tent, nibbling finger food, admiring the Master Sergeant and smiling contentedly at the Earnest Rotarian who's sitting a couple of tables away.
The red-ticket holders are off at a post-commissioning event with the Presidents Bush (both of them), but lunch here in the gold-ticket corner of Bush World is lovely. Kind. Genteel. Sure, W. is here, but this isn't much of a W. crowd, it's -- hey wait! is that Christopher Buckley over there? He was supposed to be here you know ...
People forget, but twenty years ago this month it was George H.W. Bush who was being heralded for bringing a "new breeze" to Washington. A break from all the flash and glamour of the Reagans. Bush was substance. Bush was reasonableness. Bush simply cared more than that California crowd. And Barbara ... well Barbara was fun, perfectly OK with being a size 14 and happy having as many kids and grandkids around her as possible (as compared to her predecessor, who was all brittleness and un-fun and really, where were her kids anyway? Oh right, Playboy).
So, these things move in cycles. Bush World understands this. At the cocktail party the night before, the talk was of family and funny stories from back in the day, not politics -- unless you count the coterie of Bush granddaughters sneaking smokes outside, who all agree the one thing they really do like about the incoming president is his shared secret yen for nicotine.
Bush World is where men like the Master Sergeant are revered rather than pitied. Where service is honored, rank is respected, and the Pinstripes, Pearls Ferragamo Pumps crowd that moved into the White House two decades ago knows politics has a way of righting itself eventually, like a well-built ship. So, we'll see what this Obama fellow is all about. But we'll be back, or at least our kids will ...
Meanwhile, the Old Man looked quite jaunty out there on the podium with his purple scarf and his walking stick, didn't he? That hip sure seems to be giving him trouble, though, I hope ... hey wait! Is that Christopher Buckley over there? He was supposed to be here, you know ...
Peggy Dooley is a writer and editor at FOX News Channel. She worked in the speechwriting office for President George H.W. Bush