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 baseketball 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.
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.
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).
THE PREZ VISITS SERIES
In When President John Quincy Adams visited Rochester on July 27th and 28th, 1843 and toured Mt. Hope Cemetery, the grave of Nathaniel Rochester.
In On Abraham Lincoln in Rochester from Michael Nighan, a plaque and a train station.
In 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.
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 October 23rd and 24th, 1952 when Ike and Adlai were in town back to back. And School 29., the Adlai E. Stevenson School.
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.
In When Carter stumped Rochester in ’76. And Howard the Duck. it was Howard for Prez.
In 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 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.