A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 193

George and me discover link

Amid the razzmatazz of the presidential sweep through the Seacoast a startling discovery somehow eluded the spotlight - that millionaire president George Bush and a penny-ante hack have a common link.

The story began on Tuesday after I returned from the Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth with media passes for myself and photographer Mike Whaley. Plus, Bush people called our paper to say I was one of 10 reporters who could meet with the president.

This privileged audience was scheduled for the Sheraton right after the Cabletron visit, and we could ask questions!

Intense discussion followed in our newspaper office. The first Official Question to a president in 135 years of the Rochester Courier's existence, it was agreed, should not be blown away, or focus on some personal interest, like, "Who do you fancy for the Super Bowl?"

Yet, no consensus had been reached as dusk fell.

Wednesday was bright and bitter. Goose down jacket weather. I felt a flicker of sympathy for Bush protesters sprinkled along the route up to Cabletron, stamping around to keep warm. Mike and I got wedged into the plant at 12:30 amid a crush of reporters and even tighter security.

Bush was due to arrive at 1.35 p.m., tour, talk and take his leave, giving me ample time (I thought) to fight free of the 250-strong press zoo and join the other Chosen Few in Portsmouth at the appointed time of 3 p.m. But, Bush was late.

Word came in that he had stopped near Stratham to talk to a cow and a man who turned out to be former New Hampshire House Leader Doug Scammon. Hmmm! What a serendipitious world is that of presidential politics. This pastoral chat, however, caused a time-out all the way up the line.

At length a buzz of activity indicated the president had arrived in the plant and was chatting to assembly line workers, segregated from the engineers by a partition. Electricity was in the air. A side-door opened and the state's leading political figures, the Cabletron owners, and President Bush, himself, entered and appeared on a platform to a tumultuous burst of cheering.

The rapture visibly inspired Bush. He mentioned Desert Storm, which brought forth louder roars of approval, and he shrewdly found a way to weave in another reference to this military triumph as he continued his remarks. Halfway through his speech, and with the crowd safely in his pocket, a door opened, and assembly line workers were allowed to file in.

But now it was almost 4 p.m. Would I have time to ask my question down in Portsmouth?

Mike and I scooted out the building first, under a barrage of cheering. Dropping him back at the office I sped for the turnpike, and as luck would have it, hooked onto the end of the presidential cortege speeding down to Portsmouth at 75 m.p.h.

I made it into the Sheraton and was directed to the rear of the foyer by a Bush aide to await the assembly of the Chosen Few. U.S. Senator Bob Smith came in and viewed the lobby crowd as he headed up a staircase. Catching my eye and vaguely recognizing me from past interviews he paused to express his delight at the reception Bush received during his Seacoast sojourn.

"And how about the pay raise, Bob?" I was tempted to shout after the grinning senator as he continued on to the upper levels of the plush hotel, but not wishing to get mistaken as an ingrate, while in the belly of the beast, I held my peace.

Meeting up with the New Hampshire big-timers from the Concord Monitor and Union Leader, it was security check time again. After more delay, we were led across a courtyard swept by a brutal Arctic wind. My bulky down jacket, which had just looked a little out of place amid the sea of blue suits and business outfits, now associated its owner with a remarkable wisdom, and people sort of snuck down behind it to avoid hypothermia.

More waiting, final clearance, and then take-off. Up a ramp, past more security personnel and into a room whose windows were protected by bullet-proof screens - a sad reminder of what past leaders have encountered. I took the first chair and found myself, a few minutes later, at a table seated next to Bush himself. Would I get the chance to pose the Courier's only Question in 135 years? These other Chosen Ones were pushy. Scorn-of-order people, asking penetrating stuff like "Mr. President, New Hampshire has been judged the best place to live of all 50 states. When are you coming to live in New Hampshire?"

Though the world waits with bated breath on this one, you will have to read the answer elsewhere. Deadline approaches. I haven't revealed my Question, never mind the link.

In fact, skip my question. Presidents don't become president by giving answers but by successfully ignoring them, and my Question, despite its subtlety and cunningness, was brushed aside like a dead fly.

As the meeting broke up, it was announced that each person could have his or her photograph taken with the president and a line quickly formed. Waiting in last position, I was disturbed when the lady who had asked the relocation question came staggering back, squeaking, "I freaked out! I freaked out." She was clutching the hand that had shaken Bush's in a way that made me think the president had one of those electric shock devices that are sold in joke shops to amuse your friends.

Then it was me.

"Where's that accent from?" said Bush, a man I conceived could have no possible common threads with myself. But, by intuition or diligent research, he astutely put his finger right on the button.

"The Royal Bank of Scotland!" he declared. That was our Link. Bush, an oil man at the time, had lost a multi-million dollar oil rig in the Gulf, an item which had been underwritten by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Around the same period of time, I quietly realized, I had an account with that very financial institution which peaked at one pound, seven shillings and six pence. About two bucks.

That night I drove back to Farmington, where unemployment is way above 17 percent, no matter what officials say, and called up a friend of mine to share the joyous news that my tiny savings had helped bail out a future president in his time of need.

My friend was rather less impressed. The day before, his wife, a Cabletron assembler making about $6 an hour, had recounted to him what she had been told at work. If anybody had anything bad to say to Bush during his visit to the factory they should stay home. Anyone who did speak negatively would face disciplinary action.

"That ain't right. That ain't democracy. That ain't free speech," said my friend.

But he thinks we live in 1992. I can happily live in 1984 with my Link to George.


I am warmly thanked by

President George Bush

for the loan of

one pound seven and sixpence.

January 19, 1992

FC4 Home       Previous       Next