Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Upbeat President, Ready to `Fight Back'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Upbeat President, Ready to `Fight Back'

Article excerpt

SEVERAL private minutes with the president does not a full-blown interview make. But it was long enough for me to see a George Bush who wasn't letting the bad news about the state of his presidency and his reelection campaign get him down.

Of his determination to stay in office he said, "They haven't seen anything yet!" He was bubbly and bouncy - looking like a million dollars. He reminded me of how four years ago he was way behind Michael Dukakis and what happened in the fall. He said how physically fit he was - running two miles every day - and "how great" he felt. My own conclusion after leaving this display of presidential confidence: Don't count George Bush out.

Mr. Bush might have moaned a bit. But he was in a particularly good mood. He even laughed when he said he had received a few "unkind" questions, "such as, `Why is it that so many people out there hate you these days?' "

In his long life in politics Bush has shown a rare ability to get whacked around and even go to the mat at times and still get up, fight again, and win. That long record of ups and downs and then ups again probably is what sustains that sunny view of his future - despite the dark clouds overhead.

That very morning (actually it was a noon get-together that had more to do with my wife and me celebrating our golden wedding anniversary than with plumbing the president's political future) had brought the president news of further plummeting in voter favor. A highly regarded poll was showing that only 34 percent of the public approved of the way the president was doing his job, down from 39 percent in early May. Seventy-eight percent disapproved of the way he was handling the economy, and he appeared to be in a virtual tie with Ross Perot in either a two- or three-way race.

But the conversation inevitably focused on politics. The president's message, again and again: He's going to fight back. He said he had noted Richard Nixon's advice to shorten the campaign this year - to wait until Labor Day to launch his intensive effort on the hustings. He indicated that he was thinking this over.

We got to talking about that "battling" speech he had given at the 1988 Republican convention and how this had been the beginning of his come-from-behind victory over Dukakis. …

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