11 years ago when President Bush met J-Mac. And the judgment of history.

11 years ago when President Bush met J-Mac. And the judgment of history.
front page bush

March 15th, 2006, Democrat and Chronicle

In keeping with our Presidential visits to Rochester series (below), on March 14th, 2006, President George W. Bush met local autistic basketball hero Jason McElwain and gave a speech at Canandaigua High School.  The first President Bush visited in 1989.

As Rochestarians well know, On February 15th, 2006, the autistic manager of the Greece Athena High School cnn_lf_bush_uses_basketball_boy_060314a1baseketball team, Jason McElwain, scored 20 points in 4 minutes, captured on a video that became a national sensation.

As the story goes, President George W. Bush saw the video, bringing tears to his eyes. Bush decided he had to meet Jason.  (See Bush’s remarks at the airport.) The encounter was, in some ways, Bush at his best: heartfelt with a touch of humor.

greenbaum cropped

March 15th, 2006 Democrat and Chronicle

Of all the Presidential visits to Rochester, Bush’s may have been greeted with the most vocal protests, especially against the war in Iraq. That day, according to the CNN/Gallup Poll, Bush’s popularity had reached its lowest point.

sahre loss

March 15th, 2006 Democrat and Chronicle

Since Bush left office, historians have not ranked him highly, in the low to mid-30’s out of 44.

Frequently, Bush has said that history will judge whether his decision to invade Iraq was correct. Generally, the academic consensus is that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake of serious magnitude.

I spoke with someone who served in the US embassy in Baghdad following the withdrawal of US forces. His assessment on history judging Bush:

History will not be kind to GWB.  Under his “leadership,” we rushed to war on a bogus pretext, squandering tens of thousands of lives in a poorly planned invasion. We bungled the occupation, squandered a trillion dollars on a “reconstruction”‘ that yielded little of lasting benefit to Iraqis.  We replaced a dictator with a kleptocracy friendly with Iran and apparently hostile to its own people.  The bungled US occupation and hasty withdrawal unleashed the bloodletting that still engulfs the entire region and threatens the security of Europe and the United States. The invasion allowed ISIS to control the very territories that US forces spilled blood to liberate a decade ago, forcing us to intervene again with no end in sight and fewer allies to help out. No, history will not be kind.

In the recent election, the Iraq War resurfaced when, in February 2016, Trump said if the G.O.P didn’t admit the Iraq War was a mistake, the Republicans would lose the general election.  The establishment G.O.P. never did make such an admission — but Trump won anyway, joining Bush as the two 21st century presidents who lost the popular vote (Bush in 2000).

SEE ALSO The long vigil for peace on the corner of East and Goodman


First, when a Frenchman was in Rochester and a plaque for Lafayette.

In When President John Quincy Adams visited Rochester on July 27th and 28th, 1843 and toured Mt. Hope Cemetery, the grave of Nathaniel lincolnRochester.

In On Abraham Lincoln in Rochester from Michael Nighan, a plaque and a train station.

occupyIn Memorial Day, 1892, when President Benjamin Harrison dedicated the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park with Frederick Douglass. And Occupy Rochester, Benjamin Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in the same park Occupy would occupy.

In October, 26th, 1898: the Rough Rider on his way to the Governor’s mansion. TR Comes to Town, again…and again…and again… by Michael Nighan., a statue of Teddy in School 29.


In FDR’s first visit to Rochester as a national candidate, September 23rd, 1920. And the League of Nations., Rachel in Washington Square Park.

In October 21st, 1920 in Rochester and Governor Harding’s return to normalcy. And the school named after him., a school in North Gates.harding-school-newest

In Governor Roosevelt’s triumphant return to the Convention Hall, October 18th, 1932, a luncheon with Eleanor Roosevelt.

In FDR in Rochester en route to a New Deal landslide, October 17th, 1936, an unfinished portrait.

In When President Truman campaigned in Rochester en route to his upset win over NY Governor Thomas Dewey, a thruway sign.keatingoutside-school

In October 23rd and 24th, 1952 when Ike and Adlai were in town back to back. And School 29., the Adlai E. Stevenson School.

In 56 years ago when JFK spoke at the War Memorial. Two days after his debate with Nixon. Nine days after RFK was here., the War Memorial.

In November 3rd, 1964: When Rochester’s Senator Keating lost to RFK in the wake of LBJ’s landslide. it was Senator Keating’s home on Elmwood Avenue.

In 45 years ago when President Nixon visited Rochester. And 3 days later when East High School erupted in racial violence a media briefing at the Landmark Hotel in Pittsford.running-for-prz

In When Carter stumped Rochester in ’76. And Howard the Duck. it was Howard for Prez.

In October 31st, 1976: Gerald Ford two days before the unelected president’s comeback falls just short., a Playboy

In October 29th, 1980: Carter at a rally six days before the Reagan revolution. And when Bernie Sanders campaigned for Barry Commoner, the Citizen’s Party.

In November 1st, 1984: Ronald Reagan five days before his 49 state landslide. And Jesse Jackson at MCC. And a liberal enclave. it was two rallies.

with BrIAN cropped

with-billIn 27 years ago today when President George H. W. Bush visited Wilson Magnet High School, a signed chalkboard.

In 5 Meliora Weekends ago when President Clinton spoke., Great Books with President Seligman.

In On October 19th, 2012 when Bill Clinton campaigned for Louise Slaughter. And a Socialist at the public market, Peta Lyndsay.IMG_2211-e1460320842343

In A seat at the President’s table three years later, soup and a grilled cheese sandwich at Magnolia’s.

In Next stop Albany. On the road with the Trumprenuers, the Trumpreneurs at the airport.


Which Presidential election mattered the most to you?

Memories of presidential visits on Election Day in Brighton

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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