It wasn't the slight poke in the ribs, but the way he said, "Excuse me young lady," that jostled me out of my nap during the long flight home. I looked over at the man who addressed me in such a charming, if slightly inaccurate manner. Something about his smile and the gleam in his eyes jolted mine as I rubbed the sleep out of them: could it really be Ronald Reagan?
Unsure if I was awake or dreaming, I took a closer look. Sure enough, he bore the slightly cocked head and distinctive hairstyle unseen since Al Gore's cheap imitation of both in 2000. "Mr. President!" I stammered, "What an honor to speak with you. What on Earth are you doing here?"
"Well," he drawled, "up in my new Rancho del Cielo, we're getting back issues of the Washington Post smuggled in and some of us are not too happy about the election news. So I thought I'd pop down here and check in with my favorite political columnist [ahem] to see what the real story is. After all, we need more Democrats in the Senate like Custer needed more arrows."
I couldn't help but chuckle as his good-natured banter almost took my mind off the pre-election jitters brought on by my own perusal of week-old U.S. newspapers predicting the usual GOP gloom and doom. But on the eve of Election Day, some interesting new numbers had come to light. I filled Reagan in.
He seemed puzzled that during a time of great economic prosperity, the president's party should be having such a hard time holding its majority. "What about the taxpayers, what do they say about all this?" he asked. "Unfortunately, they seem to have no voice," I answered. He frowned and said, "I'm not surprised. The taxpayer is someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."
I told him that there were reports that some Republicans have told pollsters they trust Democrats more when it comes to taxes and that those who are furious over Congressional spending and governmental expansion will take it out on the GOP. He shook his head sadly and said, "I might have to agree with them. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life you'll ever see on this earth!"
We discussed the fact that some are also upset with the GOP's perceived foot-dragging on the immigration issue. I gently reminded him that he granted a partial amnesty to illegal immigrants similar to the proposal for which George W. Bush was flamed by the faithful. He gently chided, "Go easy there, little lady. Now, I'm not going to deny that you don't now and then slip up on something; no one bats a thousand."
He was perplexed by the Senate situation in my home state of Connecticut. "So let me get this straight," he pondered, "Although they voted twice for me, Connecticut is now such a Democratic stronghold and so anti-war that this Lamont boy won the nomination. Then why is Joe Lieberman, who is pro-war, winning handily?"
"Beats me, Mr. President. Why don't you ask some of your liberal friends up there," I said. "Well," he chuckled, "we don't have too many of them up yonder, you know." He changed the subject. "I like this Michael Steele in Maryland; he reminds me of me. But if the polls you cite are any indication, why are you convinced he'll win?"
"Because blacks in blue states would never publicly admit to voting Republican," I explained. He scratched his beautifully coiffed head in a gesture of confusion which led me to comment on his eternal lack of gray hair. "Now there you go again!" he snapped with a broad grin.
After this mild rebuke, he sought to buck up my sagging spirits by way of Reaganite reasoning: "Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
As the pilot announced our descent into New York, I asked him what he thought of his party's chances. With the voice that launched a thousand liberal nightmares he said, "Politics is just like show business. You have a hell of an opening, coast for a while, and then have a hell of a close."
I smiled, fastened my seat belt and settled in for a happy, if bumpy, landing.
Note: Nearly all of the above are verbatim Ronald Reagan quotes.
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