As reported in the Washington Post and numerous other media outlets, Harry Taylor, a 61 year-old real estate broker, was afforded the rare opportunity on Thursday to directly challenge President Bush on the policies of his administration at a public forum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The text of their exchange, which is availableâ€”like all of the Presidentâ€™s public commentsâ€”on the White House website, follows:
Q. You never stop talking about freedom, and I appreciate that. But while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you’d like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice and decision about whether I can abort a pregnancy on my own behalf. You are â€“
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not your favorite guy. Go ahead. (Laughter and applause.) Go on, what’s your question?
Q. Okay, I don’t have a question. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate, and â€“
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Booo!
THE PRESIDENT: No, wait a sec — let him speak.
Q. And I would hope — I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration, and I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself inside yourself. And I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak what I’m saying to you right now. That is part of what this country is about.
THE PRESIDENT: It is, yes. (Applause.)
Q. And I know that this doesn’t come welcome to most of the people in this room, but I do appreciate that.
I appreciate it, too, Mr. Taylor. Thank you for having the courage and decency to say to the Presidentâ€™s face what many of us think and feel. Itâ€™s unfortunate that Mr. Bush felt the need to interrupt with a joke at one point and then to respond incompletely to your concerns. Nonetheless, in terms of holding the President publicly accountable and exercising your right to dissent, Mission Accomplished!