- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 14, 2004

A president’s prayer

A fourth-generation logger from Montana, Bruce Vincent, was in tears when he walked out of the Oval Office.

As executive director of Provider Pals, a youth cultural-exchange program, Mr. Vincent was among a small group of people invited to the White House on May 3 to receive the first Preserve America Presidential Awards.

His first impression of President Bush: “a firm handshake and a look that can be described only as penetrating. Warm, alive, fully engaged, disarmingly penetrating.”

But then Mr. Vincent came face to face with a personal side of Mr. Bush that few have seen, particularly in the Oval Office — his spiritual side.

“After about 30 or 35 minutes,” Mr. Vincent recalls, “the president and first lady made one more pass down the line of awardees, shaking hands and offering congratulations. When the president shook my hand, I said, ‘Thank you, Mr. President. God bless you and your family.’

“He was already in motion to the next person in line, but he stopped abruptly, turned fully back to me … and said, ‘Thank you — and God bless you and yours, as well.’ ”

Mr. Vincent then took the opportunity to request that Mr. Bush remember his stepmother, Loretta Vincent, in prayers that day. At that exact moment, Mrs. Vincent was having a tumor removed from her skull at a hospital in Kalispell, Mont. What occurred next is worthy of presidential, if not religious, history books.

“He grabbed me by the arm and took me back toward his desk as he said, ‘So that’s it. I could tell that something is weighing heavy on your heart today. I could see it in your eyes. This explains it,’ ” were the president’s words to Mr. Vincent.

Mr. Bush then discussed with the award recipient the importance of family and the strength of prayer. “He said, ‘If it’s okay with you, we’ll take care of the prayer right now. Would you pray with me?’ I told him yes, and he turned to the staff that remained in the office and hand motioned the folks to step back or leave. He said, ‘Bruce and I would like some private time for a prayer.’

“As they left he turned back to me and took my hands in his. I was prepared to do a traditional prayer stance — standing with each other with heads bowed. Instead, he reached for my head with his right hand and, pulling gently forward, he placed my head on his shoulder.

“With his left arm on my midback, he pulled me to him in a prayerful embrace. He started to pray softly. I started to cry. He continued his prayer for Loretta and for God’s perfect will to be done. I cried some more. My body shook a bit as I cried, and he just held tighter. He closed by asking God’s blessing on Loretta and the family during the coming months.”

Mr. Vincent’s wife, Patti Jo, told Inside the Beltway from the couple’s home in Libby, Mont., yesterday that Loretta Vincent is undergoing radiation for the tumor and “so far, so good.” Sadly, Mr. Vincent lost his mother to the same form of cancer in 1996.

Prefer Kerry

Salem Chalabi, one of the principal drafters of the Iraqi interim constitution, said yesterday that the insurgents in Iraq probably would prefer Sen. John Kerry as the next U.S. president.

Mr. Chalabi, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said that if he were “under the hat of a member of the resistance, I would prefer that John Kerry wins.”

“They may feel that John Kerry doesn’t have the investment, the political investment in the Iraqi situation that President Bush has,” he said.

Mr. Chalabi was a member of the legal and finance committees of the Iraqi Governing Council, the forerunner of the current government. In April, he was appointed head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which is charged with trying Saddam Hussein.

Seen in Washington

“I Actually Voted For John Kerry Before I Voted Against Him.”

— 2004 presidential campaign bumper sticker

Washington Exposés

“I see D.C. is getting a baseball team,” political limerist F.R. Duplantier notes of the Montreal Expos’ move to the nation’s capital. “Maybe, instead of the ‘Expos,’ they should call it the ‘Exposés’ — accent on the e!”

What better time for Inside the Beltway readers to help choose a suitable name for the team. Send suggestions to John McCaslin, in care of the e-mail address below, or to 3600 New York Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., 20002.

Fans of this column will enjoy John McCaslin’s new book, “Inside the Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital.” Mr. McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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