Vermont lone state without Bush visit

Monday, July 23
WASHINGTON — President Bush has crisscrossed the country. He has biked in Maryland, fished in Maine and, just last week, visited a bun-baking operation in Tennessee.

Indeed, almost seven years into his presidency, George W. Bush has set foot in all of the nation's states — well, almost all. Vermont is the exception.

His itinerary could be influenced by the fact that the state has only three electoral votes — tied for the lowest — and that it is home to vigorous political opponents, such as U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. It also hosts one of the president's lowest approval ratings in the nation.

Known for choosing friendly audiences, Bush would find no military bases on which to rally pep, and televised coverage of his visit would plunge into forested hillsides rather than populated metropolises.

"All the reasons a president would have for visiting a state — none of them apply to Vermont," said Eric Davis, a political science professor at Middlebury College. "It would be hard for him to find a friendly audience here."

Professor Garrison Nelson at the University of Vermont in Burlington noted: "There's no point. He'd show up and get booed and yelled at."

Nevertheless, there is time for the New England-born president with a southern drawl to pay his respects. He still has 17 months in office. And he is often nearby, visiting other northeastern states.

New Hampshire and Maine have hosted Bush about a dozen times each, and he made his first stop in Rhode Island last month, according to CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller, the authoritative record keeper of presidential travel.

But the White House is not making any promises.

"If the president were to visit the Green Mountain State, it would be the last, but by no means the least," White House spokesman Trey Bohn offered in an e-mail. "He would certainly look forward to the visit."

Bush family visits to Vermont have not always gone smoothly.

George H.W. Bush, as vice president, was heckled in 1984 by about 200 antinuclear protesters when he spoke on Brattleboro's town common.

Vexed by the confrontation, Bush's press secretary, Peter Teeley, told reporters the next day that advance copies of Bush's speeches would no longer be available. The new policy was rescinded hours later, with Teeley explaining, "You guys can't take a joke."

Later, the elder Bush visited Vermont twice after becoming president, once in 1988 and again in 1990, according to Nelson of the University of Vermont.

The earlier trip followed what Nelson described as a "rather embarrassing visit by his daughter (Dorothy), who was unable to answer questions by elementary students."

"Vermont has been sort of a trap for the Bush family," Nelson said. "That 'Dubya' has avoided the state makes good family sense."

But the state's liberal congressional delegation seems intent on providing the current president with an enjoyable visit — perhaps with some strings.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent, invited Bush to the state during an event this spring. Sanders said in a press conference this week that Bush "deserves to be given respect" if he makes the trip.

"He is the president of the 50 states," Sanders said. "I hope he has the decency and the courage to come to the state of Vermont — that's his job."

Andrew Savage, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Peter F. Welch, D-Vt., said that the congressman "encourages the president to visit Vermont and believes it will help him understand the passion Vermonters feel about his extremely unpopular and misguided policies."


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