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Bush visit is perfect time to speak out

PR

When President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began planning this week’s trip to Salt Lake City, they were no doubt counting on a relatively easy visit. With plans to speak at an American Legion Convention, meet with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and do a little fundraising for Sen. Orrin Hatch, the trio and their handlers probably figure they will be preaching to the choir. But as the Air Force One’s arrival time approaches, the roster of protesters who hope to get the president’s attention is growing.

Election results confirm that Utah is one of the reddest of the red states. In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry by more than a 2 to 1 margin. In 2000 Bush stomped Al Gore and in 1996 Bob Dole trounced Bill Clinton. So it makes sense, since the administration is taking a beating on a number of political fronts, they take might head to Utah for a morale boost.

Given the president’s itinerary, there is certain to be plenty of flag waving and patriotic rhetoric. Rumsfeld, Rice and Bush should feel right at home among the Legionnaires, LDS authorities and Republican bigwigs, who generally equate political protest with treason.

But even here in Utah, anti-war sentiment is growing, along with disappointment in several other Bush-administration policies. Citizens are impatient with the federal government’s lack of commitment to environmental initiatives, its inability to come up with more just and humane immigation rules and its ineffective foreign policies. Among those planning to protest this week are Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson and Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. Many Park City residents are planning to join in Wednesday’s anti-war demonstration.

Let’s hope the president rolls down the window in his motorcade and takes a good look at the crowd on the streets. Perhaps Bush will notice that citizens across the country not just in the liberal strongholds on the coasts — are asking important questions and demanding answers.

As president, Clinton was known for deviating from his schedule to talk to regular citizens. In 1998 Clinton ambled down Park City’s Main Street, shaking hands and conversing with admirers and critics alike. Though it is unlikely, we would like to see Bush step out of his carefully orchestrated comfort zone and listen to what Utahns really think about the escalating war in Iraq, the potential for war in Iran, the violence in Israel and Lebanon and a host of other issues.


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