WASHINGTON Speaking to one of the country's largest veterans organizations is not unusual for President Bush, but the timing and location of his speech in Salt Lake City is almost too perfect as the November election creeps closer.
Bush is set to speak Thursday at the American Legion Convention in Salt Lake City, and while several planned protests will make sure those unhappy with the president or the war in Iraq get a chance to speak their mind, the commander-in-chief is likely to have a captive audience at the Salt Palace Convention Center in a strongly Republican state.
"The president believes the American Legion is one of America's great organizations, and he looks forward to addressing these veterans who served our country," White House spokesman Peter Watkins said.
This is an official visit the president accepted an invitation from the Legion but it is "absolutely" appropriate to read between the lines a little in looking at how and why he is here, said Josh Gold, an assistant professor of political science at Salt Lake Community College.
"It makes for really good pictures on the news," Gold said. "It's about image management."
Gold said Bush's approval ratings are down, so the president speaking to a group of veterans in Utah is a safe bet.
"Go to a place where you are welcome," Gold said. "Utah's a very conservative state, and it is always nice to be with people of like mind."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld precede Bush's visit by two days and are scheduled to address the same convention today.
Lewis Wolfson, director of American University's "Dialogue with the Press" and an expert on the presidency and communication, said their presence factors into the notion that Bush's appearance could coincide "with developing a new policy or a new strategy."
Gold said Rice's and Rumsfeld's appearances are a good way to show the veterans, and the country, that they are "unified" on the war. "It shows there are no divisions," Gold said.
Frank Guliuzza, chairman of the political science department at Weber State University, said he expects the speech to serve as a "kick-off" for the administration's position on the war that will carry through the November election. He said it will be interesting to see if there is a bounce in poll numbers for Republican candidates and incumbents, or if it comes off as a "dud."
|Deseret Morning News graphicPresidential visitsRequires Adobe Acrobat.|
Guliuzza, who is a former vice chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said he did not know if there was much more to Bush's visit than "a very good audience in a good location."
He said if the president had come before the state's primary election, it would have been seen as more of a political trip. But now, after the election, it is a "nice coincidence" that Bush can address the veterans in a friendly state.
Bush spoke at the same convention in San Antonio in 2001; St. Louis in 2003; and Nashville, Tenn., in 2004. Each visit came around the same time in August, so the timing may be out of the White House's control. But the decision to accept the invitation is not.
Bush skipped this year's Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., also taking place this week. Vice President Dick Cheney addressed that convention on Monday.
But Wolfson believes the political perks of the Utah visit are more substantial.
"It is not coincidental on the timing of this, with the fall election," Wolfson said. "The Republicans fear that the war is a card that is going to be played in election races."
- Davis County honor student arrested in deaths...
- Man charged with killing Ogden officer found...
- Steven Powell can't go back to his home,...
- Provo couple killed in RV accident near St....
- Letters to family show Steven Powell still...
- Josh Powell made 'admission of guilt' in...
- Utah ranks No. 1 for economic outlook for...
- LDS official speaks at Boy Scouts of America...
- Chaffetz not willing to take... 70
- Mia Love announces she's officially... 43
- S.L. draws up airport plans 33
- Couples registry gets preliminary nod... 29
- XanGo co-founder accuses partners of... 25
- Man charged with killing Ogden officer... 25
- 'We're here to serve all boys,' Utah... 23
- Search for Susan Cox Powell is over,... 21