There’s a reason President Bush almost never appears before members of the general public: They really don’t like him.
Despite the delirious mood of Washington Nationals fans on opening night at their new stadium, Bush was greeted with loud boos when he came to the mound to deliver the traditional first pitch.
Video from the Washington Times indicates that the boos were lusty. An ESPN video, via ThinkProgress.org, is more of a mixed bag of boos and cheers. But in additional Youtube videos from fans in right field and high above first base the boos had it.
It was a rare moment for Bush, who avoids public expressions of disagreement by appearing almost exclusively before carefully selected audiences. In fact, this is the first time in years I can recall him appearing before the unscreened masses. Far more typical are events like his most recent Thanksgiving address. As I wrote then, even when he was talking about something as uncontroversial as the essential goodness of our country, he wanted his audience prescreened for obsequiousness.
Back during Bush’s Social Security barnstorming, University of Texas political scientist Jeffrey K. Tulis noted: “Certainly, in the past, presidential advance teams have on occasion taken steps to assure friendly audiences. It has not been uncommon for presidents to seek invitations to speak at friendly venues. But systematically screening audiences. . . . may be a new phenomenon, and one that the president should be asked to defend and justify in terms of his constitutional obligations.”
Truly, it’s one of the most blatant, indefensible examples of how Bush has turned his into the most divisive of presidencies.
Lame Duck in Flight
Terence Hunt writes for the Associated Press: “Winding down his presidency, George W. Bush is beginning his farewell tour on the world stage trailed by questions about how much clout he still wields.
“Unpopular abroad, as he is at home, Bush nevertheless has been a commanding presence among world leaders for the past seven years. Now, with fewer than 300 days left in his term, other presidents and prime ministers are looking beyond Bush to see who will occupy his chair a year from now.
“It’s an open question whether Bush’s foreign policy priorities will be embraced by his successor in the Oval Office. Other world leaders have to calculate how far they should step out on the ledge with a president whose days are numbered and whose legacy had been darkened by the long and costly war in Iraq. . . .
“Around the world, there are hopes the next president will adopt a different style from what critics have called Bush’s cowboy diplomacy and go-it-alone foreign policy.”
Matt Spetalnick writes for Reuters: “Seeking to reassert himself on the world stage in the twilight of his term, Bush will press NATO for more troops in Afghanistan, try to keep up momentum in the alliance’s eastward expansion and attempt to ease strains with Russia.
“But with Bush even more unpopular overseas than at home, he could have a hard time swaying world leaders at this week’s Bucharest summit as they look to whomever will succeed him in January 2009.”