Former President Bush often remarked that he didn’t pay attention to public opinion polls, didn’t read newspapers, and his administration always made sure to screen the audiences of any public speaking events he undertook to try and ensure that only his supporters would be allowed in. Not only could you be denied entry to a speaking event for wearing the wrong kind of t-shirt or for having the wrong bumper sticker on your car, but even Bush supporters were sometimes kicked out. Woe to any actual protesters who managed to sneak in, though, as they were arrested for daring to criticize the President in public.
What a refreshing change a new President can make. Not only is Obama making the rounds doing Town Hall style events, but the audiences aren’t being screened to weed out dissenters:
Today, President Obama hosted a town hall meeting in Elkhart, IN — which faces the nation’s fastest-rising unemployment rate — to promote his recovery and reinvestment plan. As the Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin notes, Obama traveled to relatively unfriendly territory: Obama lost the county to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 44 percent to 56 percent. Despite that fact, the White House did not screen its audience, who had the chance to ask the president questions:
In a dramatic contrast to former President Bush’s town-hall meetings — which were held almost exclusively in party strongholds, with tickets distributed primarily to supporters — it was first-come, first-served in Elkhart on Saturday [when tickets were distributed]. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained on Friday: “I’ve watched the President do town halls from 2004 through 2008, and the audience has never been hand-picked, and neither have the questions. And we’re not going to start any of that on Monday.”
What’s more, Obama invited two critics of his package along for the Air Force One ride to Indiana: Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who both voted against the bill.
This is how it should be in a Democracy. When the President holds a town hall meeting it should be in front of ALL the people and not just the ones that think he’s doing a great job. He should be open to not only hearing, but considering criticisms by those who disagree. He should have the balls to stand up and defend his plans to the people he represents without trying to create a false illusion of overwhelming support by stacking the deck.
In short, he should be honest with the people. Bush was never honest during his entire time in office. He preferred to stay within his insular bubble protected from all dissent so he could continue to believe he could do no wrong.