The Hug

…heard ’round the world.

Gabriel Whitney says he did not plan to nearly suffocate President Bush in a bear hug. In fact, he did not plan to hug him at all.
But when Mr. Whitney, one of 202 midshipmen to graduate from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., on Monday, stepped forward to receive his diploma, it just sort of happened. Call it irrational exuberance. But after six years of undergraduate school and 4,872 demerits, Mr. Whitney, 25, of Nashua, N.H., could hardly restrain himself.
With more reason than most to be overjoyed, the 6-foot-7 midshipman stepped onto the stage to accept his degree and hugged Vice Adm. Joseph D. Stewart, the academy’s superintendent. Then he raised both arms in a victorious salute as his classmates roared their approval.
Elated and with his arms still upraised, he turned toward President Bush, who had just delivered the commencement address.
Mr. Bush, wearing a quizzical expression, responded by raising his arms as well and moved in for a hug. The midshipman — almost unwittingly — found himself squeezing the president in his powerful arms. When the president caught his breath, he shook Mr. Whitney’s hand.
I said, ‘You’re the man! Thank you very much,’ ” Mr. Whitney said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“The president thought the big bear hug was funny,” said Dana M. Perino, a White House spokeswoman. “He appreciates the terrific enthusiasm of our nation’s graduates, and he was honored to be the first president to address the Merchant Marine Academy. It was quite a thrill for everyone.”
Mr. Whitney’s sister, who works in an advertising office, had designed T-shirts for the 15 family members who attended the ceremony. Mr. Whitney’s many difficulties in reaching graduation were emblazoned on the front of the shirt: 4,872 demerits (“painful”); four and a half years on academic restriction (“wounding”); two visits to the committee that weighs student expulsions (“agonizing”); two reprieves from the admiral (“necessary”); and six years of school with only an undergraduate degree to show for it (“humbling”).
The back of the shirt, which bore a photograph of the midshipman and the American flag, celebrated his crowning achievement: “Passing all licensing exams, first try: Priceless.

The MSNBC video interview with the good midshipman is hilarious.
UPDATE: Yeesh ~ if you Technorati search ‘merchant marine hug’, you will see the leftoids being really sh*tty about something as good heartedly cheering as this. Wonkette called it “the creepy hug”. (I dunno ~ I guess when you all you write about is pottymouthed, furtive, twisted, power grubbing sex in congressional men’s rooms, a hug could be creepy…I guess. I’m not that cutting edge, so I can’t relate.)

9 Responses to “The Hug”

  1. Ken Summers says:

    4,872 demerits? We’re not worthy!!!!

  2. Nightfly says:

    Adding in the five demerits you get for accidentally head-butting your Commander in Chief during commencement…
    But good for Sailor Whitney – and good for all of us that men of such dogged determination are still members of our fighting corps.

  3. He is a big BEAR of a guy ~ just a frickin’ riot. When you watch the Today interview, you’ll know exACTLY why it took him six years and exACTLY why he’ll probably wind up as one of the most beloved Merchant Marine officers of all time.

  4. Susanna says:

    Yes, I must be in the big-geek-lame-loser-so-not-cutting-edge category, too, because this just made my day.
    Creepy? Uh, no.
    Jubilant and infectious (in a good way)? Yes, indeed.

  5. KG says:

    4,872 demerits… also known as “Freshman year, spring semester”.
    Personally, I think the look on the president’s face is classic. You almost have to wonder if he’s thinking “where’s the Secret Service?”

  6. Nightfly says:

    It sounds like Wonkette mixed up this photo with the one Willisms is using for this week’s caption contest.

  7. mojo says:

    Some interesting stuff on the unused audio:
    “Mr. President!”
    “Ugh! Hey, no tounge, huh kid?”
    “Oh, MR. PRESIDENT!…”
    (SS?)Ok, pal, let go RIGHT NOW…”

  8. Dylan says:

    Gabe is the man. He’s beloved by all.

  9. A Warm Swill Welcome, Dylan! And, after reading about and seeing Gabe on TV, I kinda had a feeling he was. Best of luck to you both!

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