President Goes Local with Trip to New York
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Air Force One touched down yesterday outside Rochester, New York. President Bush wanted to talk about Medicare and prescription drugs and to find some news media friendlier than the reporters he sees daily in Washington D.C. NPR White House correspondent David Greene went to see what awaited the president.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Radio Announcer: Good morning everybody. It is 5:00. Hours from now, Air Force One will land...
DAVID GREENE reporting:
The sun wasn't yet up and all the local television stations were beside themselves. President Bush was going to be in their area in a matter of hours.
Unidentified Radio Announcer: ...the neighbors across the street from the school where the president will speak put up American flags. Others made signs. The Sullens(ph) family is holding a porch party in the hopes of seeing the president.
GREENE: The main stop was to be at a high school in the city of Canandaigua. Kevin Doran, an anchor for the CBS affiliate in nearby Rochester, was parked outside the school like a cop on break, loading up on doughnuts and coffee.
Mr. KEVIN DORAN (Anchor, CBS-WROC, New York): We've been doing this story for days about how Canandaigua--hey, you can't find a flag in Canandaigua. The whole thing! It's a presentation and it's part of what happens when the president comes, and it's great!
GREENE: Some here were talking about protests and poll numbers, but to Doran, the headline was Canandaigua getting its first presidential visit since Harry Truman.
Mr. DORAN: We sort of know what we're going to talk about already and so, really, it's just finish coffee and I've got time for one more doughnut (laughs).
GREENE: Then off he went in his best blue pinstripe suit to set up in the school gym.
Unidentified Speaker: (Singing) Well, you got trouble my friend, right here. I say, trouble right here in River City.
GREENE: In the gym the cast of the high school's production of The Music Man was warming up the crowd which consisted mostly of invited Republicans.
Mr. DORAN: We're back here live at the Academy. We're told it'll just be seconds before the President takes the stage.
GREENE: While Doran stood poised, Rachel Dewey, a reporter from the Canandaigua Messenger Post was nearby, wondering whether Mr. Bush would pronounce the name of her city correctly.
Ms. RACHEL DEWEY (Reporter, Canandaigua Messenger Post, Canandaigua, New York): Sometimes the faster you say it, the easier it is. I think sometimes slowing down doesn't help you get through the word.
GREENE: Give it to me fast.
Ms. DEWEY: Canandaigua.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I do want to thank the folks here at Canandaigua Academy for letting me...
GREENE: How'd he do?
Ms. DEWEY: (Whispering) He got it right. He got it right.
(Soundbite of applause)
GREENE: The President spoke with guests on tall, leather swivel chairs ordered from the local furniture village. According to the school, the White House asked for a bolt to be inserted to prevent any distracting swiveling. Mr. Bush was here to rebut critics who say the new prescription drug benefit has confused Medicare recipients. To respond, he sat retiree Bob Wisniff(ph) with him on stage.
Mr. BOB WISNIFF (Retiree): ...went to the pharmacy and he said you have your new card?--gave the card--few key punches on a computer and that was it--
GREENE: The President wrapped up after about a half hour.
President BUSH: I ask for God's blessing on you all and on the United States of America. Thank you.
(Soundbite of applause)
GREENE: Reporter Rachel Dewey said she thought Wisniff helped Mr. Bush's cause.
Ms. DEWEY: Word-of-mouth is always the best form of advertising so sometimes, probably for them, hearing that it's worked for one local couple, may help encourage other people as well.
GREENE: What do you do now?
Ms. DEWEY: We're gonna blitz this place and talk to everybody we possibly can (laughs).
GREENE: As for Kevin Doran, the anchorman said he wasn't sure how much the President's visit would really matter, but it was a sure hit.
Mr. DORAN: They made it easy to cover and we all did, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. That's our job. It's a huge story.
GREENE: To catch the 5:00 news, we went to McGregor's(ph) Grill and Taproom. It's a two-story bar right on the lake. They claim to have about 70 beers on tap, including $2.75 pints of Guinness.
Unidentified Television Announcer: This is news 8 now.
Mr. DORAN: Good evening everyone. What an extraordinary day this has been...
GREENE: Matt Eddie(ph) who works in the kitchen at night was taking in the coverage. He said he would have liked to hear the president cover other topics.
Mr. MATT EDDIE (Employee, McGregor's Grill and Taproom): I think he probably should be talking about other stuff besides the Medicare.
GREENE: All the same, Eddie said, it was good to have the president in town. David Greene, NPR News in Canandaigua, New York.