The president came, my husband saw him, and he lived up to our low expectations. My husband subsequently wrote a letter to the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and numerous people have thanked him for writing it.
The morning of the presidential appearance, my husband and I had a lengthy discussion of whether he should wear any of his numerous peace-related buttons or pins, or whether doing so would cause the Secret Service to reflexively deny him admittance. We settled on a relatively subtle bar-shaped pin with a peace sign over an American flag background. However, he later decided not to wear it, after further conversation with co-workers who felt he would be seriously jeopardizing his chances of getting in for the speech.
I watched the event on local TV news. The school gym was done up like every other political stop, draped in “No Child Left Behind” banners and a huge backdrop. The place was crammed with cameras and chairs, and every political figure representing anyone within 200 miles was in attendance. W spent the first several minutes of his time thanking and praising all of these assorted politicians, along with the school principal and superintendent. He was then — as he was, according to my husband, the entire time before and after his speech — a consummate good ol’ boy, grinning and joking.
The speech itself was run-of-the-mill crap about NCLB, what a great law it is, and how it should be continued without substantive changes.
Keep in mind, this speech was at a school. Part of the point was to praise this elementary school, the children, and teachers, and the principal for achieving “adequate yearly progress” under NCLB. Thus, you might expect that children and teachers would be prominently on display before or during the speech, and/or that the president would spend a fair amount of time visiting classrooms. After all, the build-up to the visit was huge: The school was shined up to a fare-thee-well, and all the kids were hugely excited.
Well, guess what? Almost no kids laid eyes on the President of the United States, who was right there in their building. He didn’t stop in any classrooms. His handlers made no effort to stage a situation with all the children in one place, where W could say hello for a few minutes. All the visitors behaved as though the children and teachers — the people who did the teaching and studying and test-passing — didn’t exist. Later reports were that the students were hugely disappointed, and who can blame them?
Hey, kids, welcome to the world of politics, Bush style. You aren’t old enough to vote; you’re only a set of numbers to be talked about in the abstract — test scores to be held up as supposed evidence of the success of a failing education policy.
After his speech, W took plenty of time to shake hands with practically everyone in the room. My husband was not among them. He took some pictures of the president from a few feet away, but he felt no need for a personal photo with this laughing goofball who has failed at every venture he’s ever touched and is now monumentally failing the American people.