Thoughts Under Fire

Our favorite quote so far from among the surviving candidates in the 1988 presidential campaign comes from Vice President George Bush, who has been describing what went through his mind after his torpedo bomber was shot down over the Pacific during World War II.

"What sustains you in times like that?" Bush asks in speeches. Well, he answers, he thought about fundamental values, and mother and dad, and God and faith--"and the separation of church and state."

The separation of church and state ? While floating around in a life raft , off an enemy-held island? Well, certainly the vice president is entitled to his memories. But can it really be that a young naval flier who was facing possibly imminent death or capture found comfort in dwelling on the issue of the separation of church and state? If so, what else might George Bush have pondered before his rescue? The virtue of the system of checks and balances, perhaps? The merits of judicial review? The controversy over the doctrine of implied powers? It takes a cool 20-year-old to hold fear at bay by thinking deep thoughts about the Constitution. Bush must have known where he was headed.

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