Low-Key Road Trip Follows the State of the Union
SCOTT SIMON, host:
President Bush followed tradition in the days after this week's state of the union, heading out of the Capital to promote some new policy proposals. So while Congress debated Mr. Bush's calls for more troops in Iraq, the president went to Wilmington, Delaware to talk about alternative fuels, then to suburban Kansas City to talk about healthcare.
NPR's Don Gonyea was with the president in Lee Summit, Missouri. Here's a page from his Reporter's Notebook.
DON GONYEA: The St. Luke's Health Center is a sprawling complex in this fast-growing Kansas City suburb.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Rich, thank you very much for inviting us here to St. Luke's. We had a fascinating tour of your facility.
GONYEA: But for a high priority item in the president's agenda, this was a low-key affair. There were big stars, the president and his Health and Human Services Secretary, Mike Levitt. The setup was a roundtable discussion. Joining the VIP's from Washington were six local residents: a doctor, two small business owners, a hospital executive, and two employees of small companies. The event lasted 50 minutes, no questions from the press corps, nor from the audience. In fact, there was no audience and all of the participants were of one mind.
President BUSH: The tax deductions going to help you folks?
Unidentified Woman: Yes, very much so.
President BUSH: Fifteen thousand dollars.
Unidentified Woman: Yes.
President BUSH: Seventy-five hundred for a single person.
Unidentified Woman: I can't imagine why someone would not...
President BUSH: Be for it?
Unidentified Woman: ...think it would.
President BUSH: Well, be...
GONYEA: Like all White House road trips, this visit came off without a hitch. Still, it all seemed unusually subdued. Nothing like the rousing tax cut tour the president embarked upon early in his presidency, or the save Social Security town hall style meetings he hosted following his 2005 State of the Union Address. Mind you, the president was not without his personal touch. Here he's chatting with Esmeralda Wergin(ph), who works at her grandmother's Mexican restaurant.
President BUSH: You recommend it?
Ms. ESMERALDA WERGIN (Missouri resident): Oh, yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
President George W. Bush: How're your...
Ms. WERGIN: Hi, grandma.
President BUSH: How're your cheese enchiladas?
Ms. WERGIN: Perfect.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. WERGIN: She makes them with flour.
President BUSH: Does she really?
Ms. WERGIN: Yeah. She's back there.
President BUSH: What's her name?
Ms. WERGIN: Nitha(ph).
GONYEA: But that was about as electric as it got. The room was small and crowded, the issues technical by nature; it was hard not to notice Mr. Bush's occasional impatience as the explanations wound on.
A State of the Union Address is suppose to set and agenda for the coming year and build momentum - not just in Washington, but out in country as well. But this late in a presidency, in the midst of an unpopular war, that maybe asking too much.
SIMON: NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea.