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Featured Column
Week of 11.13.2006
The conversation
          The President glanced at the two Secret Service men standing on either side of the door leading to the small executive meeting room at Camp David. He gave them his presidential nod accompanied by a stunted grin. Before entering the room the President glanced to his right and saw his Vice President approaching from about 20 short steps away. “Hey, pardner, hustle down here,” the President shouted at his number two man.
          “Be right there,” the Vice President replied. The second in command paced his walk, remembering his doctor’s suggestions, “With that heart of yours I wouldn’t put any undue stress on it. Take things a little bit easier.” The Vice President, with the doctor’s thoughts in mind, continued walking towards the President at his measured pace.
          Outside, the sprawling, wooded grounds of Camp David were jacketed with a fresh coat of sparkling white snow. The scores of pine trees leaned earthward from the snow’s weight. The President, whenever he was at Camp David in the winter, imagined that the giant, leaning, pine trees appeared to be praying
          First the President, and then the Vice President walked through the doorway and walked towards the two facing overstuffed couches separated by a solid wooden coffee table. The President sat down on the green couch facing the large bay window, which showed a Currier and Ives scene. The more rotund Vice President sat down, facing the President.
          The President caught himself staring out the window and adjusted his gaze towards his political ally. “Hey, pardner, let’s relax, whatya say,” and with that, he placed both his feet on the coffee table between them, crossing his right leg over his left.
           The Vice President, seeing the President sprawl and relax, placed his two feet on the wooden table and crossed them.
           Looking at the middle aged man across from him, the President said, “Well, we have a couple of months left and then we’re history. Sure hasn’t been easy, has it?”
          “You know, Mr. President…” The President interrupted, “Hey, we’re almost out of office, let’s drop the Misters, okay.”
          “Anyway,” continued, the Vice President, “we sure took on a lot, didn’t we? We have wars going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. Africa is on fire, some of those Pacific Ocean nations are hotbeds of Islamic terrorism. Those Iranians are ready to go to war, just as the North Koreans are. The new President and Vice President are going to have their hands full, aren’t they?”
           The President, deep in thought, gazed at his new, black cowboy boots, then looked up at the world’s second most powerful man and answered, “Y’know, I don’t know what the hell to do about that Iraq situation now. First I thought they had nuclear weapons, then I thought we’d beat them on the battle field and the war would be over. I never thought we’d still be fighting them 5 years later. And I really thought they’d love us for bringing democracy to them. I thought that in 2005 we’d have a big parade in downtown Baghdad and you and I would be there to celebrate. The funny thing is, my wife told me it would be a mistake to go to war in Iraq and I didn’t listen to her. Colin Powell told me the same thing and I thought he was just being negative. If I had it to do over again I might do it all differently. Maybe I should have talked more to those Iraqi leaders. Maybe I should have used the United Nations more. Maybe I should have talked with that guy in North Korea, Kim Jong il. Same with the guy in Iran, you know, Ahmad…something or other. Whatcha think?”
           The Vice President, thought for a few seconds, then said, “Y’know, I was thinking the same thing. Last year I started wondering if maybe we should have sat down with some of these guys instead of just threatening them. Maybe if we talked with them they wouldn’t hate us so much. Heck, what did we have to lose. If the talking didn’t work we’d just be right back where we started from.”
          The President nodded in agreement as the nation’s number two man spoke, then he said, “Well, there’s a mess in Iraq, Afghanistan isn’t doing too well and those two guys in Iran and North Korea are going to continue giving the next president big headaches. I sure wouldn’t want to be him. Ya know, I feel bad about this stem cell research thing. Do you think I was just too stubborn about that?”
          “Well, it’s possible that some of that research on stem cells could have been done without doing any harm to humans. We might have eased up on that one. You know the research is moving ahead and it appears that the scientists are coming up with cures for many diseases and injuries. Too bad we couldn’t take credit for finding those cures.”
          “Heck, in a couple of months I won’t be president and you won’t be the vice president. Not much we can do now, is there? I’ll tell ya this. I never did like getting in front of those reporters at them news conferences. Always made me feel uncomfortable. I just kept saying the same old things, you know, like, ‘We’re going to stay the course.’ Looking back, I wish I would have said some other things. The wife tried to get me to speak more friendly, but I didn’t listen to her about that either.”
          Stretching out his legs even further, the Vice President folded his hands behind his head and replied, “And I didn’t listen to what people said about my connection to the company. Looking back maybe we shouldn’t have given all those billion dollar contracts to Halliburton. Looks bad, doesn’t it? Especially with the slaughter that’s still going on in Iraq. By the way, how’s your dad doing?”
           “Dad. He’s doing fine. So’s my mother. Dad’s in Saudi Arabia right now. He’s visiting King Fahd, something about a big oil deal. Dad’s always going over on some oil deal. Soon as the inauguration is over in January I’ll be joining him, working at the Carlyle Group. Big, world wide company. Dad says he’ll get me a good position with them.”
          “So, pretty soon you won’t be President of the United States. Any regrets?”
           The President got up from the couch, walked over to the large window and took in the view of the snow covered pine trees. He stared and fell into a quiet rapture.
          The Vice President coughed politely and said, “Mr. President, are you okay?”
          “Oh, sure. I’m fine. What did you ask me?”
          “I asked you if you have any regrets from your time in office?”
          The President turned back to the large window and stared outside. He didn’t answer for a good minute, then he said, “Maybe I gave Karl Rove too much power.”
          With that the Vice President got a quizzical look on his face, pushed himself off the couch and walked over to the President, offering his right hand. The President reached out with his right hand and the two shook hands energetically.
         They both started walking towards the same door through which they entered, the President leading. Before reaching for the door knob, the President stopped suddenly, spread his arms around the Vice President and hugged him. As he did the President whispered in the Vice President’s ear – “Thank you, I’m sorry.”
          The Vice President didn’t say anything, but he understood what the President meant.
An honest discussion
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
     
Ron Cruger