“Joe the Plumber,” move over. Meet “Pete the Jailer.”
Peter Ries is a basic proud American who’s worked hard, stayed optimistic and still upholds the nation’s most traditional virtues with an iron fist - but a tender heart. He’s a Vietnam-era Army veteran, a corrections officer, a former evangelical pastor, a husband of 40 years, a father of three and grandfather of four. He’s got a son on active duty who just completed multiple combat tours of the Middle East.
Pete the Jailer rides a Harley-Davidson named “Old Blue.” He likes bacon, barbecue and Old Glory. He’s got patriotic tattoos and a ready grin despite 13-hour jail shifts.
He also is a loyal fan of President Bush.
“Yup. To the end,” Mr. Ries said from the porch of the 19th-century clapboard farmhouse near Fredericksburg that he and his wife, Julia, fixed up themselves more than three decades ago.
He crosses his meaty arms and the affable blue eyes grow sharp.
“This country owes President Bush respect. A lot of respect. All this ganging up on him from the media, the Democrats - them treating him like garbage. Well, it offends me. He’s still my president,” Mr. Ries said.
Then his hand goes up like a traffic cop.
“After eight years of Bill Clinton, when President Bush took over, it was like a relief, like from sickness. I thought, here’s someone who is distinguished and dignified, finally. And his wife is such a shining example as a first lady,” Mr. Ries continued.
“Bush has got courage. When we got hit on 9/11, he had the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. And he didn’t run. Bush was determined. But he was gracious about it. And the bottom line is we were never attacked again. America has been safe. He did that right. Very right.”
Pete the Jailer is not very keen on the press, however.
“Always bad news. No matter what George Bush did, it was wrong. If something went crazy in Congress or overseas, Bush got blamed for it by the mainstream news media. But you know what? He maintained that presidential thing. Didn’t get petty, didn’t bark back, and that’s important to me. Now, I don’t know all that goes on behind the scenes, but what I do know is this. Bush made me proud. And he made me proud of America,” he said.
Former President Ronald Reagan brought out similar sentiments in Mr. Ries, who is 58. He calls himself “a product of the 1960s” who sincerely wishes President-elect Barack Obama luck but fears that the incoming leader might ease off on the war against terrorism.
“It’s going to take more than talking. Talk is OK. But we’ve got to stay strong, and on guard. That old peace through strength thing,” Mr. Ries said.
“Bush is the man. He’s going to do just fine in history, you watch. I think he’s going to be remembered as a president who was fit for the job, with real guts and courage when we needed it. He’ll do fine,” he added.