George. W. Bush spent a little time this week in one of the few places left on Earth where he could still win an election and I couldn't help but wonder what it's like to be him.
What's it like to raise money for John McCain, a man you had to beat out in some pretty nasty battling for the Republican nomination eight years ago?
What's it like to do it in the home of Mitt Romney, a man who spent the past year saying that Washington is broken and the administration is out of touch?
What's it like to have seven months remaining in a two-term presidency that early reviews are ranking among the weakest and least popular, Nixon of course excepted, that any of us have ever lived through?
And what I wonder most of all is this: Was it personally worth it?
It wasn't possible to get close enough, physically or otherwise, to ask the president these questions, or any others for that matter. The receptions he attended were private fundraisers. The only access to George W. Bush, even in the reddest of the red states, was via big money, and I think it's safe to say that no one was inclined to pay $70,100 to have dinner with the president in Deer Valley and ask him, uh, what's it like to be so unpopular?
But don't you wonder?
A president is human, too, and no matter how well he is insulated, no matter how many yes men surround him, at the end of the day it's only natural to want to be more liked and praised than hissed and despised. It's one thing not to have it in the beginning, but who wants to retire without the popular vote?
It was Bush's fourth live visit to Utah. His first was for the Olympics six years ago, when he took a seat with the U.S. Olympic team during opening ceremonies and that figure skater called her mother to tell her who she was sitting next to. The president's charisma came through loud and clear. I got a chance to witness it on two other occasions when I saw him live. One was at ceremonies at Ground Zero in New York on Sept. 11, 2002, when Bush's interaction with the survivors of 9/11 was inspiring. The other was in the summer of 2006 when Bush spoke to the American Legion in the Salt Palace about freedom and you could have heard an American flag lapel pin drop.
Every time I saw him, he impressed me. He was presidential and then some. Like music, I thought he came across much better live.
I was almost glad I voted for him. Twice.
But then there's the other part of it. The reality. The reasons Bush is about as popular as four-dollar gas. The mess in Iraq. The deteriorating economy. An America arguably angrier and in worse shape than it was eight years ago.
I was on my way home Wednesday night when I looked up and saw the fleet of helicopters zooming overheard, taking the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth to Romney's house in Park City. I was on my way to work Thursday morning when those same helicopters swooped overhead again, taking Bush to the airport.
What a way to commute, I thought. What power.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.