‘Please keep us safe, Mr. President’Written by Bob Frantz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
”Please keep us safe, Mr. President.”
When you have a mere five seconds to greet and shake the hand of the most powerful man in the world, you have to choose your words carefully.
Those were the words I chose.
It was Oct. 29, 2004 when I met President George W. Bush for the first and only time. He was in Toledo just six days before the presidential election, speaking at a rally at the SeaGate Centre, and I was invited as a front-row guest. More precisely, I was given a standing-room-only position at the bottom of the portable staircase that led to the stage. It was this staircase Mr. Bush would descend when he finished his speech to a frenzied crowd of supporters.
When the President finished waving to the crowd following his remarks, and after a few minutes of posing arm in arm with the First Lady, he moved toward the stairs, roughly 10 elevated feet from where I stood. It wasn’t until he was actually walking down the stairs toward me that I fully grasped the opportunity before me. This wasn’t some rock star or all-star athlete, and I wasn’t some groupie wanting to touch someone famous while shouting, ”We love you, Mick!” I had a realistic chance before me, I thought, to personally greet the President of the United States, and in the middle of the most brutally intense election cycle in modern history, I felt a responsibility to say something meaningful.
When he reached the bottom step, every hand in Toledo seemed to reach toward the president, mine included. Being taller than most, my arm stretched farther than most, and that was the difference. The first hand he shook with the firm grip you’d expect from a Texas rancher was mine, and it gave me an opportunity to lean in and speak directly into his ear. A million thoughts raced through my mind in a single moment, and I had to somehow condense them into a few short words before I lost my grip and he moved on. Suddenly, my mind cleared, and a picture of my two children filled the space. And just as suddenly, my word choice was clear:
”Please keep us safe, Mr. President.”
The President smiled and nodded, as he released my hand and moved to his right to find another, and I thought for a moment he couldn’t hear me above the cheering crowd and the blaring music. But then he paused, and he turned back toward me. The smile was gone. And with a look of sincerity and determination, the president looked me directly in the eye and declared, ”I will.”
Those are the words that keep coming back to me as I listen to daily whining over supposedly illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping on private conversations involving Americans. Those are the words that echoed in my head when President Bush answered the charges.
”As president, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country,” he said. ”Article 2 of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it.”
The president’s political opponents say he’s trying to obtain unchecked power, and that by exercising his authority to spy on international phone calls and e-mails, he’s violating the Constitution. What they neglect to point out is that President Bush has not only the power to conduct such surveillances, but he has an obligation to conduct them.
Imagine a scenario in which another 9/11 scale terrorist attack is carried out in another U.S. city. Imagine, then, two years later when a bipartisan commission investigating the attack learns that the terrorists were living in America and communicating with their superiors overseas. Imagine phone records and recovered computer hard drives that detail the conversations and the planning of the attack. Then imagine the backlash against the Bush administration for failing to protect Americans by sniffing out the plot.
Would you be satisfied with thousands more Americans dead and with the president’s response of, ”We couldn’t monitor their communication because we didn’t have the warrants in place.”? No, you’d want him impeached for failing to do whatever was necessary to prevent the attack.
The president’s opponents say he’s violating the Constitution and taking away our civil liberties. I say he’s keeping his promise. The one he made to me.
E-mail Frantz at letters@toledofreepress.