THE PRESIDENT AS SPORT
by Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- You can tell a lot about a person by whoever he chooses to have dinner with.
The day after he the State of the Union address, President George W. Bush was in Mesa, Ariz., to push one of his programs and to campaign for re-election - although the White House was firm in stating the trip was presidential, not political. Had it been political, the Republicans, not the taxpayers, would have had to pay for it.
Nevertheless, after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at mid-day, the President decided to dine in nearby Phoenix with the local hoi polloi: millionaire Anaheim Angels owner Arturo Moreno; Jerry Colangelo, managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks; general manager Joe Garagiola Jr.; and manager Bob Brently.
Earlier in the day, he exchanged handshakes, but didn't discuss anything with Arizona's Democratic Gov. Jane Napolitano, who had wanted to talk about federal assistance to fight forest fires. Apparently, since she wasn't a baseball player or a Republican lobbyist, the governor wasn't worthy of his time.
Also not worthy of his time were innumerable Arizona residents who were not props in his slap-hands photo-ops. He could have had dinner with Hugh Downs, former "Today Show" and "20/20" anchor, now a lecturer at Arizona State. But he didn't. He could have had dinner with Marshall Trimble, a best-selling author and the state's official historian. But he didn't.
He might have asked actors Barbara Eden or Debbie Reynolds to dinner. But he didn't. If he was worried about what to say to someone more creative or intelligent than he, the President could have had dinner with mime Robert Shields, of Shields & Yarnell comedy fame, but he didn't even think about asking him to dinner. There was also no way he would have asked Arizona residents Lynda Carter, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Baldwin, or Alice Cooper to dinner.
If he was worried about dining with liberals, he could have asked Paul Harvey or former vice-president Dan Quayle to dinner. He probably should have tried to have dinner with straight-talking Sen. John McCain, if only for the appearance of party unity. But he didn't. He might even have given a call to former Watergate mastermind G. Gordon Liddy, currently a talk show host.
But he didn't. There were thousands of writers, artists, musicians, scientists, firefighters, social workers, and human rights activists he could have asked to his intimate dinner.
But he didn't. Nor did he ask any Native Americans, who compose more than five percent of the state's population, to dinner. He chose as his dinner companions millionaires and sports figures. That alone says far more about the man than any of his policies.
AR Correspondent Walt Brasch's latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture through Amazon or www.walterbrasch.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.