On Tuesday, President Bush popped in for a surprise visit to the Sterling Family Restaurant, a homey diner in Peoria, Ill. It’s a scene that has been played out many times before by this White House and others: a president mingling among regular Americans, who, no matter what they might think of his policies, are usually humbled and shocked to see the leader of the free world standing 10 feet in front of them.Reading the obituaries? Is that a hint? No matter, they still love W. on Wall Street:
But on Tuesday, the surprise was on Bush. In town to deliver remarks on the economy, the president walked into the diner, where he was greeted with what can only be described as a sedate reception. No one rushed to shake his hand. There were no audible gasps or yelps of excitement that usually accompany visits like this. Last summer, a woman nearly fainted when Bush made an unscheduled visit for some donut holes at the legendary Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant in Chicago. In Peoria this week, many patrons found their pancakes more interesting. Except for the click of news cameras and the clang of a dish from the kitchen, the quiet was deafening.
“Sorry to interrupt you,” Bush said to a group of women, who were sitting in a booth with their young kids. “How’s the service?” As Bush signed a few autographs and shook hands, a man sitting at the counter lit a cigarette and asked for more coffee. Another woman, eyeing Bush and his entourage, sighed heavily and went back to her paper. She was reading the obituaries. “Sorry to interrupt your breakfast,” a White House aide told her. “No problem,” she huffed, in a not-so-friendly way. “Life goes on, I guess.”
On Wednesday, Bush went to Wall Street to deliver remarks on the economy. CNN and MSNBC carried portions of the speech live, but Fox News Channel, a network that has been viewed as sympathetic to this White House, did not, opting instead to air reports on immigration and the 2008 presidential race. At least Bush got a raucous reception from traders (typically a GOP-friendly crowd) when he paid a surprise visit to the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.Of course, Wall Street doesn't have the votes Peoria represents:
Will it work? Unfortunately for this White House, polls find that the public not only doesn’t believe that the economy is getting better, they largely don’t give Bush credit for gains in the economy. According to a Gallup poll released last week, a majority of those polled—53 percent—believe economic conditions are getting worse. Meanwhile, in a poll conducted two weeks ago, Gallup found that just 45 percent approved of Bush’s handling of the economy—a number that has been virtually unchanged in recent months.Obituary, indeed.