We supplement our post below on the president’s attendance at the Army-Navy game yesterday with the following eyewitness report. Navy partisan and Power Line reader Rick Hine writes:
I’ve been an avid Powerline reader for more than a year. My wife and I are the proud parents of two Naval Academy midshipmen – Adam (07) and Carolynn (08). I attended the game on Saturday and wanted to add the following observations on President Bush’s appearance:
1. At about 1245 (two hours before kickoff and shortly after the marchon of the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen) the crowd received a surprise – a flyby over the stadium by Air Force One as the plane circled to land. The stadium was probably half full at that time, and the crowd roared. As noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer article, the President first appeared on the field at about 1330. I was seated in the South end zone and he came out of the tunnel in front of us. As soon as everyone realized what was going on, a 100-decibel roar erupted from the crowd. One of the midshipmen in the Naval Academy section had a life-size cutout of the President with the words “Go Navy, Beat Army” coming out of his mouth. The scoreboard flashed a picture of the cutout – Senator McCain pointed to the scoreboard, and the President started laughing and waved, much to the delight of the midshipmen. The President then moved up the sideline where he took the photos with the Naval Academy cheerleaders. He shook hands and posed for a number of pictures with individual cheerleaders before taking the group pictures that you posted. The pictures are genuine and NOT photoshopped. He then moved across the field and greeted the Army cheerleaders. He reappeared just before kickoff to flip the coin, accompanied by the First Captain of the Corps of Cadets and the Brigade Commander of the Midshipmen. Both young men wore ear-to-ear smiles, as did the President. He shook hands with the team captains, flipped the coin and then proceeded to sit on the Army side for the first half. At halftime, he switched sides and sat on the Navy side. Periodically during the game, the scoreboard flashed pictures of the President and the stadium erupted with loud cheers.
2. Reflecting on the President’s visit, two things were clear:
a. The military loves this President with a fervor not experienced since President Reagan. His reception at the game went far beyond respectful, polite applause. The atmosphere was electric – every time he made an appearance or his picture flashed up on the board, the stadium responded. The liberal left will never understand what happened on Saturday – I’m convinced they’re incapable of feeling the type of emotion that a popular wartime president generates from the military community.
b. It was clear to everyone in the stadium that President Bush REALLY WANTED TO BE at the game. This meant much more to him than a mere photo-op or political appearance. His genuine affection and respect for the young men and women at Annapolis and West Point and for the tradition of the Army-Navy game was on display for everyone to see. Although the details of his appearance were scripted (i.e., the coin flip, sitting on each side, visiting the locker rooms, etc.), the flow of emotion back and forth between the President and the crowd could not be rehearsed. It’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
As you know, the midshipmen continued their stellar season with a 42-13 win and head for the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on 30 December.