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« The Katie Couric Debate Rages | Main | Leadership Changes Life in Liberia »

Apr 7
Harry Taylor Wins One for Democracy But Not Necessarily Democrats
In an age of spin and handlers, many in the media could hardly contain themselves after President Bush was challenged by a detractor in a meeting. I guess I am trying to figure out if what happened is worth all the fuss. I am in agreement with The Columbia Journalism Review:

"So someone kicked a little dirt on Bush's shoes. That hardly merits a description such as 'Bush Under Fire,' as an AP dispatch was titled, or 'A First Amendment Moment, as Citizens Criticize Bush in Charlotte,' as the Fayetteville Observer put it.  Even more bizarre was a New York Times story that reported the exchange at length under the headline, 'Facing Tough Questions, Bush Defends War,' at that same time admitting that, apart from Taylor's 'hostility' (hardly the word we would use to describe it), "plenty of the comments were far gentler."

Harry Taylor, a commercial real estateHarry Taylor.jpg broker, was not a heckler but certainly a critic and detractor of Bush and his policies. He bluntly addressed Bush, "In my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of my leadership in Washington."

It would be easy to say that 61 year-old Harry Taylor’s direct criticism of President Bush in an open-forum event in North Carolina was somehow a victory for liberals. The Washington Post saw it more realistically. The Post noted that Taylor’s criticism,

“in its own way…… [was] just what the White House wanted.”

While you may not like the policies, decisions or personality of President Bush, he handled this rare public confrontation as an experienced and poised leader.

While most of these “meet and greets” are friendly crowds, a true leader should be prepared for tough questions.
Apparently Bush was there to listen and respond. That is what he did. After the crowd responded to Taylor’s initial comment with boos, Bush asked the crowd to "Let him speak."

The President disarmed the situation with humor (his signature cornball humor that is): "I'm not your favorite guy"

Bush was not defensive or offended by the criticism, instead he “took it in stride but offered no regrets.”

He explained his position on issues raised by Taylor. "I'm not going to apologize for what I did on the terrorist surveillance program, and I'll tell you why...."

Also give credit to Harry Taylor. He was articulate and respectful and was not afraid to stand and voice his opinion, as unpopular as it may have been in that particular venue. Again fron the Washington Post:

“In an interview afterward, Taylor said he had become an activist in recent years out of discontent with Bush and was pleasantly surprised he was allowed to challenge the president. ‘I didn't think I'd be let in the room,’ he said.

Bush hardly won him over, though. ‘I didn't care about his response,’ Taylor said. ‘I wanted to say what I wanted to say and I wanted him to know that despite being in a room with a thousand people who love him . . . there are plenty of people out there who don't agree with him in any way, shape or form.’”

Photo credit to Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press

2 Comments/Trackbacks




The most significant thing about Harry Taylor's comments at a George Bush function is the fact that it is thought significant.

Lyndon Johnson saw and heard a lot of criticism during his appearances and travels. Presidents since Lyndon Johnson have also been made aware of criticism.

Other Presidents have addressed meetings in which people voiced displeasure. This was the incumbent President’s opportunity to explain a decision or to convert somebody.

Bush, however, only preaches to the choir. His audiences are screened so that the whole audience consists of Bush supporters in a big cocoon.

He ignores those not already converted. During his second campaign the American Federation of Government Employees sent a questionnaire to Bush and Kerry, planning to print their responses in a federal employee newsletter. George Bush didn't bother responding.

Protestors are kept blocks away from travel routes and meeting sites and are never seen by the President.

I have always voted Republican except for when Richard Nixon ran and won and when George W. ran the second time. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are not conservatives. They are fascists who appear to want to replace the Supreme Court and the Congress with a Board of Directors.

I salute Harry Taylor.

Linkin Mall >> Great perspective. Thanks for contributing. Maybe the Harry Taylor event should have been more significant. I think the Washington Post saw it as significant for Bush because it contradicted and refuted the notion that Bush

"inores those not already converted" and "His audiences are screened so that the whole audience consists of Bush supporters in a big cocoon."

He didn't ignore Harry Taylor, he invited him to speak when the crowd booed Harry and he took the "opportunity to explain a decision or to convert somebody."

It appears to me a as civil dialogue. It should happen more.

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