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With a Hush and a Whisper, Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans
February 25, 2005 2:13 PM   Subscribe

With a Hush and a Whisper, Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?
posted by Postroad (53 comments total)

 
Lost in Europe
posted by mr.marx at 2:29 PM on February 25, 2005


I'm no bush defender at ALL. But no politician goes into a situation that would be bad for him or her. That would just be stupid.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:30 PM on February 25, 2005


yeah, being an actual leader would be stupid.
posted by blendor at 2:37 PM on February 25, 2005


Gannon was busy.
posted by telstar at 2:37 PM on February 25, 2005


furiousxgeorge, you're begging the question (in the pure logical sense). Why would this meeting have been bad for Bush?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:43 PM on February 25, 2005


furiousxgeorge writes, " I'm no bush defender at ALL. But no politician goes into a situation that would be bad for him or her. That would just be stupid."

Yeah, and no German wants to be a prop in a Bush PR stunt. If the questions are pre-approved it means that only sympathetic or manageable questions are selected. Why would anyone want to waste three hours (including security checks, etc.) to sit in the audience for that?
posted by orthogonality at 2:47 PM on February 25, 2005


Why would this meeting have been bad for Bush?

The Bush 2 unit can't handle questions it's not programmed to answer.
posted by Captain Ligntning at 2:49 PM on February 25, 2005


His front men couldn't limit it to a 100% Bush friendly crowd with promise of arrest for any hecklers like they do here in the States. The Germans would have ripped him apart.
posted by caddis at 2:53 PM on February 25, 2005


I'm just curious as to who started the "town hall" meeting format. I was under the impression that it was Clinton. Was his stuff also prescripted or was it truly a first come first seated kind of thing?
posted by MrMulan at 2:58 PM on February 25, 2005


His front men couldn't limit it to a 100% Bush friendly crowd with promise of arrest for any hecklers like they do here in the States. The Germans would have ripped him apart.

But that really is the question, isn't it? WHY would the Germans have torn him apart? Additionally, why would the leader of the "FREE WORLD" be afraid of questions? And more to the point, why do we in America accept this shit from our President? "It would have been bad for Bush". We elected him (at least this time). Shouldn't we be able to hold him more accountable and responsive then the Germans? Apparently not.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:03 PM on February 25, 2005


> Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and
> Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?

Probably. So what? One PR event more or less, not exactly epoch-making.

> and no German wants to be a prop in a Bush PR stunt.

Good Germans would.
posted by jfuller at 3:04 PM on February 25, 2005


Do you mean Dead Germans would?
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:06 PM on February 25, 2005


furiousxgeorge -- Rick Santorum, scumbag though he is, has been doing just that with his Social Security meetings. While the College Republicans have been on hand to chant "Hey hey, ho, ho, Social Security has got to go," Santorum's people don't appear to be actively keeping the difficult questioners out. For that matter, one of my Senators, Russ Feingold, holds open listening sessions in each of Wisconsin's counties every year, without screening attendees for ideology. Both of these men are, to the best of my knowledge, politicians.
posted by aaronetc at 3:07 PM on February 25, 2005


Bush Won't Address Canadian Parliament
Seeks To Avoid Potentially Hostile Reaction
(Globe & Mail)

Bush Booed at Martin Luther King's Grave

Bush booed in Chile

etc.
posted by matteo at 3:10 PM on February 25, 2005


But no politician goes into a situation that would be bad for him or her. That would just be stupid.

You're right. But truly great leaders do. Winston Churchill wouldn't have been afraid of taking on a town hall. Hell, he had to deal with the questions from MPs in the House of Parliament.
posted by anthill at 3:13 PM on February 25, 2005


mode switch: charm offensive > charm defensive
posted by hellbient at 3:13 PM on February 25, 2005


Really, you have to feel sorry for all of these Republican congressmen who have to face real questions from real voters about Bush's Social Security phaseout plan while Bush himself gets to play solely to handpicked audiences with scripted questions.
posted by deanc at 3:16 PM on February 25, 2005


This really comes as no surprise — the Bush administration itself has made it known that they prefer questions prescripted, whether they are hostile or not. It's just their policy. What's more eyebrow-raising was that it was proposed at all.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2005


Bush doesn't think well on his feet. A session which he didn't have time to prepare his answers for would have been disasterous for him and schadenfraude for everyone else.
posted by RockCorpse at 3:29 PM on February 25, 2005


Yeah, you shouldn't let our leader get into situations he can't handle. Like talking to people and his interview in Ireland last year and stuff. It was a lose/lose situation by cancelling the meeting or putting himself in front of people and I'm sad to say that our country is actually probably stronger for having them cancel.
posted by Arch Stanton at 3:30 PM on February 25, 2005


I'm not convinced that's true. Almost everyone who saw his apperance in Montana said that he was rather charming in his stage presence.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2005


We can agree that a town-hall meeting stocked with supporters isn't terribly useful. A town-hall meeting stocked with opponents wouldn't be useful either, and for the same reason -- no productive dialogue. Bush is doing the right thing.
posted by MattD at 3:31 PM on February 25, 2005


Oh, here is a CNN article from 1998 about an open Town Hall meeting that Madeline Albright attended in Ohio about military strikes in Iraq. This is how the left treated their own President's staff. Now, replace Ohio with a country that doesn't like us or support our war and imagine what the crowd would be like.
posted by Arch Stanton at 3:37 PM on February 25, 2005


I'm not sure why he cares, really. He could shit his pants in front of everyone and half of this country would still love him.

(sorry, kinda bitter)
posted by fungible at 3:38 PM on February 25, 2005


I disagree strongly, MattD. A meet with friends is useless, yes. You however assume that a meet with the opposition won't be productive because ideas can't be changed or altered. That's completely false, and a true leader would make what efforts possible to do that very thing. Unless the leader was already convinced that those who don't agree are the same as those who hate. And in that case, why do a "charm offensive"? Bush exhibited weak tholought and fear. Hardly the traits I expect from a world leader.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:42 PM on February 25, 2005


We can agree that a town-hall meeting stocked with supporters isn't terribly useful. A town-hall meeting stocked with opponents wouldn't be useful either, and for the same reason -- no productive dialogue. Bush is doing the right thing.

because, as we all know, Bush runs away from town-hall meetings stocked with fans. no useful dialogue, you know.
*snicker*
posted by matteo at 3:48 PM on February 25, 2005


We can agree that a town-hall meeting stocked with supporters isn't terribly useful. A town-hall meeting stocked with opponents wouldn't be useful either, and for the same reason -- no productive dialogue. Bush is doing the right thing.

The word 'stacked' has a specific meaning, which you're using correctly the first time, when republican campaign officials handpick a friendly audience. But you are implying that someone would be doing the stacking to find people who would be his 'opponents' (a strange label given that it's in another country, so it's not like they would be registered Democrats.) So you're saying Bush's people 'did the right thing' because someone might have asked a difficult question? Is he the best America could do? Really?
posted by Space Coyote at 3:49 PM on February 25, 2005


A town-hall meeting stocked with opponents wouldn't be useful either, and for the same reason -- no productive dialogue. Bush is doing the right thing.

Pardon the wordplay, but if Bush was doing the right thing in the first place, he wouldn't find such ubiquitous opposition. Most people from NYC to London to Paris to Berlin to Sydney think he's a sh*t, and this is a perfect example of the reason why. Real leaders aren't scared to face their public at home, and those of their allies abroad.
posted by edverb at 4:05 PM on February 25, 2005


OK, picture this. Tony Blair goes to Germany and does one of these town hall deals. The audience is polite but press him hard on Iraq and the faulty intelligence. Blair trots out what he usually does when asked about these things and then eventually the debate moves on to other subjects. Nice and easy.

Bush isn't scared of anti-war people in Germany, why the hell should he. The American public doesn't care what Germans think and even if they did, it's hardly likely to lose Bush the next election. No, his handlers know (and so do we, even his supporters) that Bush is terrible when he's put on the spot, even with fairly simple questions.

Now you could argue how important it is that the POTUS can construct a sentence without help, but ultimately that is the point of this article.

Does anyone care about this any more? Bush is a clumsy idiot in public, we all know it. But he's no more running America than I am.
posted by dodgygeezer at 4:19 PM on February 25, 2005


*Filed away for the furure: dodgy is Rove.*

;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:31 PM on February 25, 2005


eehhh, future
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:32 PM on February 25, 2005


No, his handlers know (and so do we, even his supporters) that Bush is terrible when he's put on the spot, even with fairly simple questions.

More to the point, the actual occurence of a town hall meeting in which bush answers questions from real people is unimportant. However, the image seen on American televisions of Bush receiving questions and answering them is of primary importance. Since potentially holding a real Q&A period may result in unacceptable images being broadcast in America, Bush's handlers preferred to stage manage it more appropriately for display in the US news media.
posted by deanc at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2005


Winston Churchill wouldn't have been afraid of taking on a town hall. Hell, he had to deal with the questions from MPs in the House of Parliament.

One of the benifts of the parlimentry system. As a Canadian it's kind of freaky both how few questions the President has to answer and how his handlers stack the questions he does answer. I'm realising that the president's office isn't so much a democratic position as a serial dictatorship.
posted by Mitheral at 5:11 PM on February 25, 2005


What is the point of a "Town Hall Meeting"?

Is it to meet with the people you represent and hear first hand their concerns, their fears, their ideas? Well, apparently President Bush doesn't think so. Apparently to him a Town Hall Meeting is a place to stand up, do some speaking and joking, and get greeted with cheers and adulation. I think he has confused "Town Hall Meeting" with "Rock Star Performance."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:12 PM on February 25, 2005


Coward.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 PM on February 25, 2005


Coward.

Seconded, strongly. Stay the course? Nah.
posted by odinsdream at 6:18 PM on February 25, 2005


Mr. President, how are you going to work with Europeans who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

The visit was supposed to be the cornerstone of his trip to Germany, with the express purpose of letting him "get in touch with the people who he most needs to convince of his policies." If he was going to punk out, why schedule it in the first place?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:27 PM on February 25, 2005


Man, this is so much more fun than ruminating about what we're about to drop on Iran or whomever.

Cabel, the fact that you're here discussing your work in real time, as someone who has used your software for many years, makes me remember why I really [heart] the internets. Can you have this sort of interaction with the people who made your car, or your blender, or your phone? Maybe someday.

Of course, maybe someday, Steve will join MeFi . . .
posted by MarvinTheCat at 6:37 PM on February 25, 2005


I still don't understand the point of doing a 'charm offensive' if the person that wants to be liked doesn't do anything to change the actions that made people upset in the first place. But hey, the trip wasn't really for Europe anyway, it's just so the defenders can say "the president is reaching out".

I liken it to a person who urinates in someone's gas tank, then tells a couple really funny jokes.
posted by Arch Stanton at 6:58 PM on February 25, 2005


I don't see Chirac or Schroeder holding town hall meetings here in the U.S. so what's the problem?
posted by gyc at 7:00 PM on February 25, 2005


I'm realising that the president's office isn't so much a democratic position as a serial dictatorship.

More like a rotating oligarchic chairmanship. Think corporate state.
posted by telstar at 7:55 PM on February 25, 2005


MarvinTheCat, did you accidentally post that in the wrong thread?

*Filed away for the furure: dodgy is Rove.*

eehhh, future

Considering it's Germany and Busy we're talking about, perhaps you should say eehhh, fuhrer.

No, of course not. But we got this far without someone being stupid and provoking, so I decided to step up to the plate.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand...strike three. Dammit.
posted by davejay at 8:26 PM on February 25, 2005


I don't see Chirac or Schroeder holding town hall meetings here in the U.S. so what's the problem?

*blinks*

where to start...

How about that they aren't asking the US for anything?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:22 PM on February 25, 2005


gyc, if either scheduled one and then backed out because of potential opposition, that would be a problem.
posted by rustcellar at 9:25 PM on February 25, 2005


Yes, it was stupid of Bush's people to think that it would be anything but disastrous to have Bush hold a town hall meeting in Germany. However, I don't see why he shouldn't at least be able to do a minimal amount of screening to at least screen out dumb or redundant questions. I don't think he'd want to screen out all dissenting/challenging questions because that would be bad PR, but I wouldn't be opposed to some screening just so that bad questions wouldn't crowd out the good, intelligent questions given the limited time.
posted by gyc at 9:36 PM on February 25, 2005


hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhah eheheheheheheeheheheheeheh oh oh , hahahahaahahahahah, ah hem *cough* ok just needed to get that out of my system
posted by nola at 12:45 AM on February 26, 2005


Yes, it was stupid of Bush's people to think that it would be anything but disastrous to have Bush hold a town hall meeting in Germany.

Well, maybe not so disastrous if the questions are scripted, but there's the rub, isn't it? I mean, what's this business with scripted questions anyway? This really shouldn't be necessary in a country that is led by a competent leader elected by the people -- like in a decent democracy. The countries allowing only scripted questions, that's only authoritarian regimes like China, most (all?) of the Arab world, the USSR when it still extisted, North Korea, Turkmenistan... And now, sadly, the U.S.
posted by sour cream at 12:51 AM on February 26, 2005


Scripted town hall meeting? What is that? If town meetings, (which are still a viable form of government around here) were scripted, they'd be entirely pointless. As are these stupid public appearances by the Leader Of The Free World, Inc.

Scripted town hall meeting? Only in Repubmerica.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:22 AM on February 26, 2005


Kirth, it's kinda like "scripted democracy."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:38 AM on February 26, 2005


According to the article, instead of the town hall meeting, Bush will meet a small group of specially invited "young leaders". No journalists will be allowed: "In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group." Let's hope one of those "young leaders" is wearing an "I'm blogging this" sweater.
posted by Termite at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2005


Tony Blair recently did a discussion program on Channel 5 here in the UK and regularly stands up for questions at Prime Ministers Question Time in Parliament. I may not like him all that much but at least he has to answer for his actions.

The fact that Bush gets away with never publicly answering for his policy decisions just adds another black mark to his already stained record.

on preview : lets hope one of those "young leaders" isn't wearing an armband...
posted by longbaugh at 8:01 AM on February 26, 2005


Boxers or briefs?
posted by Cyrano at 8:06 AM on February 26, 2005


Bush doesn't enter any situation that isn't tipped in his favor. Even *cough* his own press conferences.
posted by fleener at 11:43 AM on February 26, 2005


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