Thursday, November 03, 2005

Comedy Gold

How Bush Visit Became the Siege of Howard U.

It was Soul Food Thursday at Howard University last week, and many students were looking forward to their favorite meal: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread. At lunchtime, however, students discovered that much of the campus had been locked down and that the school's cafeteria was off limits.

Apparently, many of them did not know that President Bush and first lady Laura Bush had arrived for a "youth summit" at the Blackburn Center, where the dining hall is located. Stomachs began to growl, tempers flared, and, eventually, a student protest ensued....

During the protest, dozens of students locked arms around a flagpole in the Quadrangle, a designated forbidden zone at the center of the campus, and refused to move despite warnings from campus security that Secret Service rooftop snipers might open fire on them...

What might have been a public relations coup for Bush -- a visit to a historically black college to show concern for at-risk youths -- ended up as another Katrina-like moment, with the president appearing spaced-out, waving and smiling for television cameras while students were trying to break through campus security to get to the cordoned-off cafeteria...

The Republican Party is trying hard to win over black voters before the midterm elections, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele needs the support of black Democrats in his bid to become the first black Republican in the U.S. Senate since Howard alumnus Edward Brooke of Massachusetts (1967-1979). So one thing Bush didn't want was a ruckus during a visit to Howard.

All he had to do was drop in on Soul Food Thursday, be seen sharing a wing and some collard greens with students -- and score one for the GOP.

But the visit went from bad to worse. On a day when the U.S. Senate passed a resolution paying tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who died last week, campus security guards were telling students that if they wanted to eat they'd have to come back when the president and first lady were gone, then go to a service door at the rear of the dining hall and ask for a chicken plate to go. Never mind that a student meal plan at Howard can cost as much as $2,500 a semester.

Howard is not some hotbed of political activism....

To set off a student protest at this school, you'd have to be politically tone-deaf in the extreme, out of touch and flying blind. And yet, Bush did it.

God help us in Iraq.

Mr. Milloy,

As someone who loathes Mr. Bush, may I just compliment you on writing one of the most hilarious pieces I have read in a long time, and I say this at the expense of Mr. Bush and his hamhanded moves to make nice to African Americans.

Mr. Bush has become little more than a hapless muppet. The image of him waving and smiling like the empty suit he is as Secret Service members threaten to shoot students is like something out of Vonnegut. The relegation to the service door for take out food is OVER THE TOP: Howard University, the historically black college, sending its students to the back of the bus. "The president appearing spaced-out, waving and smiling for television cameras..." Brings a whole new meaning to Whitey's on the Moon, doesn't it?

Could you please email Fred Hiatt at your paper's editorial page and tell him to stop defending Mr. Bush? Could you explain to him that, no really, nobody likes the man anymore, stop licking his shoes?

I am going to forward your piece to everyone I know.
Thanks a million.

Brendan Skwire


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