Yesterday, President Bush visited a Harley-Davidson plant in York County, PA, ostensibly to tour the facilities and discuss the economy. But the visit–which was relatively brief–was essentially a ploy. The primary purpose of Mr. Bush’s trip to the Keystone State was to stump for Lynn Swann, the Republican candidate for governor. From York, the President traveled to Lancaster to headline a fundraiser that drew 350 people and raised $700,000 for Swann. Good night for the former NFL wide receiver. Bad night for American taxpayers, who were left with the check for the trip.
Still, the President did get to sit on a ‘Hog’,? instead of merely roasting one. And he was well-received by throngs of enthusiastic supporters in this slice of small town America. Or was he? The York Daily Record provides revealing coverage:
Three or four parents with their kids hugged the guardrails along Route 30 as several helicopters circled, then landed on the rear helipad of York County’s Harley-Davidson plant Wednesday. A few cameras flashed, and flip camera phones cracked to attention. But then the awed onlookers were gone, almost as quickly as President Bush’s transport landed, leaving only a few protesters staring at the building where the leader of the free world was taking a tour on a hot afternoon.
The White House had made very clear a week before Bush’s visit to Springettsbury Township that he would speak to only a few workers inside the plant. He would then make his way to Lancaster to stump for the Republican candidate for governor. And apparently, supporters and detractors got the message, and most stayed home….
One of a half-dozen protesters, Adam Herbert of New Freedom said he was sad and surprised more people didn’t show up to support the president – even though Herbert definitely did not support Bush.
The George Mason student said he wanted “to ask Bush a question.” He wanted to know why the president helped secure peacekeepers for Lebanon while the peacekeeping effort in the Sudan – where civil war rages but where the conflict is not seen as linked to the war on terrorism – went undersupplied. “And I wonder if I’ll ever get to ask him that question,” Herbert said, staring toward the Harley plant.
Fellow protester Steve Herzog, another college student from New Freedom, said the group might travel to Lancaster to get its messages across. “We’re not finished until he goes home,” Herzog said.
Dover Township resident Jeannette Ambrosius took offense to the protesters. “That’s horrible,” she said. “I’m a Christian, and that’s horrible.” As she locked up her car to launch a one-woman counter-demonstration, she explained that Bush had been sent by God to be president, and questioning him was tantamount to blasphemy.
Ambrosius scribbled a message for them on a sign of her own, made from an old Avon box in her back seat. It said simply that if you don’t like America, “leave it.” She marched it over to the protesters and began deriding their signs for peace. “There won’t be no peace until God says there’ll be peace,” she said. “Even God is a God of war.” After a brief back-and-forth about the right to protest, Ambrosius turned toward the traffic looking for support for “my president.”
At 4:08 p.m., two Marine One-style helicopters and a Chinook aircraft took off from the factory and headed south. In the distance, two more Chinooks appeared and landed before quickly taking off and heading toward Lancaster County. The end of the copter traffic brought a flurry of cars and, of course, motorcycles from the west side of the Harley plant.
Employee Tammy Stambaugh said her shift was supposed to end at 3:30 p.m., but security kept her and several hundred other workers at the plant until 4:10 p.m. – and no one was happy about it, especially considering none of those employees had seen the president. “They couldn’t tell us how long it was going to be, either,” Stambaugh said of the 40-minute wait.
She said she wished Bush could have made more than a “quickie” visit, like Clinton made about a decade before, when the former president talked to most employees under a tent. “It was totally different,” she said. [full text]