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Monday, August 28, 2006

Bush's trip to family home draws anti-war protesters

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — President Bush went to his parent's century-old summer home on the Maine coast for a little relaxation, a distant cousin's wedding and some family time. He got all that, along with a boisterous reminder nearly on his doorstep of the unpopularity of his Iraq policies.

What local police estimated were 700 anti-war demonstrators marched Saturday to within half a mile of the Bush compound before being turned back at a security checkpoint.

The compound, Walker's Point, is owned by the president's father and mother.

The protesters sang, chanted, beat drums, waved signs and played fiddles to call on Bush to bring troops home.

The group was loosely aligned with activist Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq who gained international attention when she shadowed Bush last summer while he vacationed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month found that only about one-third of Americans support Bush's handling of Iraq.

A spokeswoman for Bush said he wasn't bothered by the demonstration that briefly took over the tiny, scenic downtown of Kennebunkport.

"As the president has said, Americans are free to protest," said White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.

The president was drawn to his first visit to the family's retreat in two years by the wedding of Walker Stapleton.

He is the son of the former president's cousin, Dorothy Walker Stapleton, and Craig Roberts Stapleton, the U.S. ambassador to France who was a partner with George W. Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Walker Stapleton married Jenna Bertocchi on Saturday before about 300 friends and family at St. Ann's Episcopal Church, a stone chapel overlooking the sea.

Over the weekend, others in the Bush family also were attending a memorial service for Grace Walker, the groom's grandmother, and the christening of a baby from the Walkers' side.

The president was skipping those events. He even stayed away from the reception after the nuptials. Aides said the president feared his presence, with his large entourage and rigid security requirements, would be disruptive.

Over his four-day Kennebunkport stay, the president declined the usual golf game with his dad in favor of taking his mountain bike about a half-hour away to a federally owned stretch of woods. He engaged in at least one Bush family tradition, fishing from his father's speedboat.

Bush did not entirely escape presidential duties. On Thursday, he met with the families of five fallen soldiers. He has engaged in telephone diplomacy on the crisis in Lebanon and the nuclear standoff with Iran. He also was keeping updated on the progress of Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Bush was to return to Washington today.

President Bush’s Vision, Resolve Praised

Barry Casselman editorializes in today’s Washington Post “After we were attacked on September 11, U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly favored the pursuit of our attackers in their base in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush and his advisers realized, however, that this would not solve the new long-term threat now posed by an enemy determined not only to remove our presence from the Middle East and destroy Israel, but also intent upon humiliating and overwhelming Western culture with an aggressive and feudal totalitarian culture of their own. A war was initiated in Iraq to remove a bestial dictator and to change this totalitarian nature of the Middle East. Virtually everyone concedes Saddam Hussein's cruelty, but many in the United States and most in Europe resisted the boldness and risk the president took to alter the chemistry of persistent feudalism in the Middle Eastern Islamic world. …His opponents continue to demonize Mr. Bush. But I continue to think his strategic vision is the best one, and the risk he took was a valid one. The struggle is not over in the Middle East, contrary to the perennial naysayers, but it is a time when outcomes are uncertain and our purpose is not transparent. … Eventually, those who oppose him, and even those who may despise him now, are likely to recognize and honor his lonely and historic journey.”

Clinton And Kerry Work To Make Sure Felons Can Vote

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, “With the exception of Maine and Vermont, every state disenfranchises criminals -- some while they're in prison, others while they're on parole or probation, and still others after they've served their full terms. But that's beginning to change in some states. Governors in Iowa and Virginia have unilaterally restored voting rights to many felons, while legislatures in Maryland and Nebraska have liberalized their laws. At the federal level, a bill supported by Sens. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, among others, would force states to allow felons no longer under sentence to vote. That bill is on hold, at least while the Democrats are out of power. But lawsuits in federal courts in Florida, Washington and New York have claimed that depriving felons of the franchise violates the Voting Rights Act. This movement is in the wrong direction. We should have fewer felons voting, not more.”