by Scott Simon
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Philadelphia, August 2 -- Politics is art, not science. Real life can
intrude on carefully concocted plans, explode expectations, and dash
I've been reminded of this over the last few nights when I catch an
occasional glimpse of the special section of seats in the convention hall
reserved for some especially beloved Republicans who have been brought in to
be celebrated onscreen, then take a few bows.
George and Barbara Bush, Dick and Lynn Cheney, Gerald and Betty Ford, Colin
Powell, Bob and Elizabeth Dole, and Nancy and Maureen Reagan have sat in
those seats at different times. It can be fascinating to recollect the
scores of ways in which their lives have crossed and connected:
Dick Cheney was President George Bush's Secretary of Defense. He was also
President Ford's Chief of Staff. Colin Powell was Mr. Bush's chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, but also a White House fellow when George Bush was
head of the Republican National Committee and Gerald Ford became president.
Mr. Ford chose Bob Dole to be his running mate. President Reagan promoted
Colin Powell to general. General Powell commanded the troops President Bush
sent against Saddam Hussein. There is a human connection between each title.
There was a small, touching moment during last night's tributes to U.S.
veterans. Bob Dole, who left Kansas to fight with the fabled First Mountain
Division in the hills of Italy, reached out to grasp the hand of George
Bush, who left his eastern prep school to enlist in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Dole
was wounded and lost the use of his right arm. He battled back from injury
and despair to offer his life to public service. Mr. Bush's plane was shot
down from the sky -- he was a teenager suddenly swimming for his life
through blood and fire. He struggled against loss and fear to give a good
part of his life to the business of his country.
Bob Dole and George Bush once ran against each other for president. But last
night, they offered an admiration and comfort to one another that perhaps
only they could share.
The business of politics tries to insure results. But the collection of
luminaries in the box this week has reminded me that politics is real life
-- nothing is guaranteed.
Right after I covered the Gulf War in 1991, I went to a Texas Rangers
baseball game. Friends brought me down to meet the team's owner, a
gregarious man with a famous name who had never held public office. He spoke
with pride about his new ballpark, and puckish good humor about making
improvident trades. I never considered the possibility that the man I would
see nominated for president almost a decade later wouldn't be a champion of
the Gulf War, like Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, or Dick Cheney, but a
baseball team owner named George W. Bush.
-- Scott Simon
Scott Simon joined NPR in 1977 as
chief of its Chicago Bureau. Since
then, he has reported from all 50 states, covered presidential campaigns, seven wars, and reported from Central America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.
From civil wars in Bosnia and El
Salvador, to hospital rooms, police
stations, and America's backyards,
National Public Radio®'s Peabody
Scott Simon brings a well-traveled
perspective to his role as host of
Weekend Edition Saturday.
Simon has a new book,
Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan was published in the spring of 2000 by Hyperion.