Who Was Invited To Bush's 'Town Hall' Meeting
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Who Was Invited To Bush's 'Town Hall' Meeting

CBS 4 Denver | March 22, 2005

President Bush's appearance in Denver Monday looked like a town hall meeting, but it felt more like a pep rally with the president telling a Republican crowd it's time to reform Social Security.

"I have an idea, it's called a personal savings account," the president said, to applause from the partisan crowd.

The meeting wasn't about soliciting public opinion, it was about selling the president's plan, CBS4 News reports. As much as Mr. Bush's appearance was meant to look like a town hall meeting, in reality this was more of a campaign stop.

It was billed as a town hall-style meeting to talk about one of the most controversial subjects in the American political spectrum: reforming Social Security. And if the crowd seemed friendly, even receptive to President Bush's plan, it was likely no accident.

"Is it political theater? Possibly," said Tom Knecht, a University of Denver political science professor. "Taking hot button issues on the road is an old tactic in the presidential playbook, a way to put pressure on reluctant members of Congress."

The hand picked panelists, the softball questions and the enthusiastic crowd are all part of the packaging.

"Generally, the president's efforts to go public and influence members through that route is only successful at the margins," Knecht said. "So it generally doesn't produce a huge swing in public opinion, and the public tends to be discriminate consumers when it comes to these sorts of rhetorical efforts."

The public may be discriminate, but democrats are hopping mad. Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has blasted the orchestrated meetings as being un-American.

While organizers say the president's appearance was a non-partisan affair, if you wanted anything in the way of a dissenting viewpoint you had to go outside of the hall to find it.

Some pundits say even the decision to release few details about the specifics of the president's plan is strategic, so that there's room for compromise later.

This was stop No. 17 on the president's 60 city tour to promote his reform plan.

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