As his approval ratings plummet, Bush has started attending meetings, town halls and local forums with real people. (Isn’t this what presidents are supposed to do? Reading some of the news coverage,you’d think Bush was a man of courage for forsaking handpicked, scripted audiences.)
So there was Bush in Charlotte, North Carolina last night–for one of these newfangled, unscripted forums. That’s where 61-year old Charlotte real estate broker Harry Taylor stood up to the President.
It’s worth repeating what Taylor had to say: "While I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me frombreathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice… about whether I can abort a pregnancy… What I wanted to say to you is that–in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened, by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of youself… I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak… That is part of what this country is about."
News reports tell us that last night’s audience was mostly supportive of the President. Maybe so. But Taylor’s statement–almost a cry from the heart of an American upset about what he sees happening to a country he loves–may better reflect the mood in North Carolina, a state Bush twice carried by wide margins. A new poll by a conservative Raleigh think tank found only 46% approve of his performance, while 42% support his handling of the war in Iraq.