Will Bush bring out red, white, and boos?
As the saying goes, it's lonely at the top, and perhaps nobody in the world knows this better than President George W. Bush. With the economy lagging, gas prices rising, and the war in Iraq remaining unpopular, Bush's present approval rating is at 30 percent according to the most recent Gallup poll.
However, displays of this disapproval in Bush's presence have been few and far between, given that Bush does not make many public appearances. But lately, when Bush has gone out among the American people, the American people have not received him warmly. From getting heckled at the NAACP convention in 2006, to getting booed by 40,000+ after throwing out the first pitch at the opening of the Washington Nationals' in March, Bush hasn't been able to leave the White House bubble without hearing an increasingly loud voice of dissent.
Given that 72 percent of Charlottesville voters cast ballots against Bush's re-election, and that his visit to Monticello on Friday to celebrate July 4 will be free and open to the public, could the president be stepping into a public embarrassment by coming to our town?
Nobody is coming forward and declaring that they plan to interrupt the president, but blogger and former press secretary for Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) David Swanson says he does hope to rouse a little rabble at Monticello on Friday.
"We're asking people to bring props and signs and flyers and banners," says Swanson, "and we're getting together in the lower parking lot just off Route 20, to line the road up to Monticello, to let people know what we think of this particular individual speaking on this day."
Among the groups with whom Swanson is working is the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, who hold weekly protests in front of the federal courthouse against the Iraq war. Asked if the Center is planning any kind of disruption of Bush's remarks or the naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens over which he will preside, spokeswoman Center spokesperson Sarah Lanzman says, "If people do something like that, that would be something out of their own conscience. We're not organizing anything like that."
Some in the blogosphere, including those on this very website, say that the solemnity of the occasion renders a politically-charged interruption inappropriate. Swanson agrees with that sentiment, at least in part. "I don't think anyone should interrupt or disrupt one of the few decent things this president is involved in," he says, "but if people want to make their views known, particularly if these new citizens want to exercise their new rights, then that's entirely appropriate."
Ah, but would Swanson himself voice his dissent to Bush's face given the chance? All he would say is, "I'll tell you Monday."
July 1 update: Monticello has announced that the president's visit will still be open to the public, but only 1,000 people will get in, and those people will need to have tickets. The free tickets will be distributed at the Monticello Visitor Center near Piedmont Virginia Community College at 7am on Wednesday, July 2. If you're one of the lucky ones, you are to report back to the Visitor Center at a specifically assigned time, no earlier than 6:15am.