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Friday, April 07, 2006

Person of the week

Harry Taylor, Charlotte, NC:
"While I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges," said a man who later identified himself as Harry Taylor, a 61-year-old commercial real estate broker. Mr. Taylor also said he was a member of the liberal political group Move On, but attended the speech on his own behalf.

Standing on a stage in shirtsleeves, holding a microphone, Mr. Bush drew applause and laughter by chiming in, "I'm not your favorite guy."

Mr. Taylor went on, "What I wanted to say to you is that I in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate."

Mr. Bush hushed boos from the audience by saying: "No, wait a sec. Let him speak."

Mr. Taylor continued, "I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself."
Good on Bush for letting Taylor speak. Bad on Bush for not paying any attention.
Referring to abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, Mr. Bush said, "What took place there and the pictures there just represented everything we didn't stand for." He added: "I wish that could be done over. It was a disgraceful experience."
So he's disappointed that Saddam didn't have WMD's, and he wants to do Abu Ghraib all over again. (Of course, all indications are that Abu Ghraib-style torture continues to this day, and is defended by aWol's insane attorney general.)

The NY Times suggests that allowing Taylor and maybe a few other Bush opponents in was a risky change in strategy:
The visit here was part of the White House strategy to put Mr. Bush in front of crowds, including those hostile to him, as he tries to reverse sagging support for the war, and his presidency, in a crucial election year for his party in Congress.

But the event on Thursday, a speech about national security before the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, also highlighted the downside for his administration of breaking away from the friendly town hall meetings packed with pre-screened audiences that were a staple of his 2004 re-election campaign.
Given the mentions in the selection quoted above about "applause and laughter" for Bush and "boos" for Taylor, I'm guessing this was just a refinement of the strategy, not a change. Back in 1980, I went to hear George H.W. Bush speak at the University of Illinois when he was running for vice president. At the end, he fielded three or four questions. The last one came from a hippy-ish looking guy who asked a negative, argumentative question. Bush Sr. of course didn't answer it, but used it as a launching pad for one last rant about the greatness of the country and the correctness of Reagan's policies (okay, it was 26 years ago; I don't remember exactly what he said). The mostly pro-Reagan/Bush crowd went wild as Bush waved goodbye. I left convinced that the last "questioner" was a plant, a stooge hired to ask that question and give Bush the chance to rise up in righteous anger. I'd hate to think that Harry Taylor was also a plant, given that I just gave him my Person of the Week award. But, setup or not, letting one or two real or phony nay-sayers (representing the majority of the American people, BTW) into an audience only to be shouted down by the supporters who predominate in the crowd is certainly more refined political theater than just having person after person raise his/her hand and say "Mr. President, I wake up every morning and thank God that you are our president," which is what usually goes on when Bush "speaks."