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Republicans clear brush to clear their minds

Last weekend Ronald Reagan came out of nowhere to overtake Jennifer Lopez's surprise third wedding and Smarty Jones' run at the Triple Crown as the decisive winner of the headline sweepstakes.

Last weekend Ronald Reagan came out of nowhere to overtake Jennifer Lopez's surprise third wedding and Smarty Jones' run at the Triple Crown as the decisive winner of the headline sweepstakes.

Already, thousands have paid tribute to the 40th president as his casket makes its way across the country from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., to Washington, D.C., then back. The funeral processional is longer than that of Princess Diana's, though it's unlikely Elton John will be asked to re-write "Candle in the Wind" again.

In a week of reflecting, comrades and detractors alike of the actor-turned-governor-turned-president have recalled the gifts of the Great Communicator. Clips of the Gipper's greatest hits reveal just how truly charismatic he was.

Sadly, Reagan's residual charm is lost in the current race for the White House. Neither candidate seems as comfortable chatting it up with the public as Dutch did. Perhaps those jelly beans were mood enhancers, or maybe it was his penchant for a good nap that kept him so fresh in front of crowds and cameras.

It's not that George W. Bush and John Kerry are cold or incapable of humor, it's just that they're not good at it. Still, Bush's little skit, looking for weapons of mass destruction around the Oval Office, was set up by Reagan's on-air gaff, joking, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to announce that I've signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes."


Reagan's legacy consists of more than just well-delivered lines and hair that defied gravity and grayness. Unofficially, he set the Republican aerobic agenda.

While the elder George Bush has Kennebunkport, Maine, and the Kennedys have a compound in Hyannisport, Mass., Reagan's own presidential retreat was Rancho Del Cielo, overlooking Santa Ynez Valley and the Pacific Ocean in California. There the president and the first lady could pose in a dazzling display of working class western garb and accessorized belt buckles and cowboy hats.

Images depict Reagan, then in his 70s, as a smiling ranch hand, riding horses and ready with a rope. In fact, during his two terms in the White House, his Secret Service code name was "Rawhide."

While Bush Senior rejected Reagan's ranchero regimen, Bush Junior has saddled up for the workout.

When W. needs to get away from the hustle and the bustle of the nation's capital, he ambles on down to his own ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he clears his mind while clearing brush. Apparently brush is a serious threat to ranchers in Crawford and Bush won't stop until that mission is accomplished.

So how does Democratic challenger John Kerry relax without a place or the desire to clear brush? Seemingly by trying to win not only the November elections, but also Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

From jogging and biking to snowboarding and tossing the pigskin, Kerry seems to be in decathlete training. The only thing missing is a photo op playing a couple rounds of Frisbee golf or an impromptu hacky sack circle to loosen up before a speech.

It would appear Kerry's ideal running mate would be Bruce Jenner or Bo Jackson, though the latter has the upper hand (and a surgically replaced hip), since Bo knows health care.


Will Kerry's appeal to X-treme sports enthusiasts pull in more votes than Bush's brush-beating, backyard workout? Time will tell.

Now if only W. could find those weapons of mass destruction somewhere in that pile of brush.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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