You may have missed this: President Biden was in Atlanta this week giving a speech. It was billed as a major policy push for voting rights legislation now in Congress. Unfortunately for him, while there’s no doubt voting rights are extremely important, he arrived about 16 hours after the Georgia Bulldogs won the National College Football Championship. And given the fact that a good chunk of the populace of the Peach State wears red and black on any given Saturday every fall, it’s a distinct possibility many people were not paying close attention. Tuesday may have been filled with post-game celebrations and buying National Champion merchandise to wear with pride for years to come.
This outing notwithstanding, presidential visits everywhere may have lost a bit of their luster over the years. There was a time when monuments were erected on spots where a White House resident stood and spoke to the assembled multitude. A sculpture on Courthouse Square in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, commemorates a visit by Abraham Lincoln. I vividly remember my dad taking me to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds one Labor Day afternoon to see and hear Lyndon Johnson speak. Dad was not a big fan of LBJ, but he thought it was important to witness a President in the flesh. (Years later we would take our young kids to a George W. Bush speech for the very same reason.) I couldn’t tell you one thing either president said on those occasions, but I definitely remember being a bit awed that I saw both those leaders of the Free World in person.
No doubt the fact we now live in a world of 24-hour news cycles and really expect to (and do) see our top elected officials on television often has perhaps made it less exciting to see a president in person. Plus, it’s become a major hassle to make the effort to do so. I’m sure everyone within reasonable proximity to President Biden at his bash in Atlanta had to submit credentials to the Secret Service well before the day, show up exceptionally early for the actual event, and undoubtedly go through scanning machines that would put the TSA to shame.
During campaign season, it’s not unusual for a president to swoop in, grab a microphone, and raise his hands high while grasping that of a certain candidate he’d like to see elected or re-elected. Pundits found it very interesting that while Georgia’s two Democratic Senators and other officeholders were in attendance, recently-declared gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams chose not to attend the speechifying. Some kind of “scheduling conflict” was the reason given.
Notwithstanding 21st century Administrations, shunning a presidential visit is something that probably would not have happened in bygone days. No matter what you had scheduled, there was virtually no one who wouldn’t have understood you taking a rain check because you were going to be with the President. And many a politician would have jumped at the chance to get a hand-shaking picture for the front of brochures. I don’t remember seeing any clarification as to what Ms. Abram’s conflict was. Perhaps she was in Indianapolis for the Big Game and couldn’t get home. Or maybe her cat was lethargic. Whatever her reason, I’m guessing the White House handlers were none too pleased with her absence.
One person who didn’t miss the shindig was President Harris. Oops. VICE-President Harris. Slip of the tongue there. That was interesting because you don’t often see POTUS and the Veep traveling together. (Did she take a separate plane? Surely that’s like the Queen and Heir to the throne never flying on the same jet in case something untoward were to happen.)
From the excerpts of Mr. Biden’s speech I saw, it seems he decided to carry on with a recent Presidential tradition of bashing those who deign to disagree with him. He seemed to spend quite a bit of time calling Republicans ugly names and likening those in the Senate to a few less-than-desirable characters from the history books.
Nothing new there. It’s possible he was just taking a page out of his predecessors’ books. Certainly #45 was not known to pull any punches when it came to naming dissenters’ names. And #44 didn’t always take swings at his “honorable opponents” with velvet-covered gloves.
Whatever President Biden tried to accomplish this week in Atlanta, he probably squandered a great opportunity to connect with the people. Maybe I missed it, but I mean, really, all he had to say was, “How ‘bout them Dawgs!” and sit down. Nothing else needed.
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer