08 October 2006

10th Nimitz-class Christened

(Washington Post 8 Oct 06) NEWPORT NEWS, Oct. 7 -- Despite a steady downpour that chilled thousands gathered Saturday in the shipyard here, President Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, basked in the warm embrace of extended family and friends as they celebrated the christening of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named after the former president.

Saturday's ceremony was held at the foot of the gigantic gray bow of the unfinished carrier, in the midst of a rainstorm whose loud claps of thunder periodically startled the thousands of dignitaries, Bush family friends, Navy personnel, shipyard workers and company officials gathered at the Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard. "I'm finishing, Lord, I'm finishing," Bush promised, drawing laughs as he glanced up at the sky after one particularly powerful thunder clap.
(SJS: I will attest to the general mess Saturday's nor'easter made of things throughout Virginia yesterday -- just thankful it wasn't winter or we'd still be out there shoveling today...)

But the storm did little to dampen the festive mood of the crowd, which included dozens of luminaries from the George H.W. Bush administration, including former secretary of state James A. Baker III, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin L. Powell, who also served the son as secretary of state. Also in the crowd were four of the former president's fellow pilots who served in the Pacific theater during World War II, as well as dozens of old friends and retainers from a lifetime in politics.

A huge cheer went up from the crowd when Doro Bush Koch, the ship's "sponsor" and the former president's daughter, smashed a bottle of American sparkling wine across the bow of the carrier at the end of the ceremony. The crowd also cheered the two Bush presidents, who seemed delighted. The elder Bush took it all in with an almost boyish glee. Holding Barbara Bush's hand, the former president sang enthusiastically along with tenor Ronan Tynan, who rendered "God Bless America."

George H.W. Bush, 82, is the first living former president to attend the christening of a carrier in his honor, and when it came his turn to speak, he told the crowd: "This is any naval aviator's dream come true."

Bush did allow that he could not say this was the greatest day of his life. He recalled telling Barbara Bush that it was the greatest day of his life when son George was elected governor of Texas and son Jeb governor of Florida -- only to be asked, "What about the day we were married?"

"I would simply have to say," Bush added, to chuckles, "this is, maybe, the third happiest day of my life."