Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Not Welcome at All

Former President George W. Bush heads to Calgary to give a speech. Via the Globe and Mail:

George W. Bush can expect a cordial welcome tomorrow inside a Calgary convention hall as the wildly unpopular former U.S. president gives his first public address since leaving office, but outside, a gauntlet of protesters don’t plan to be the least bit polite.

Local activists have been ramping up their anti-Bush efforts in advance of the $4,000 per table invite-only event titled a “Conservation with George W. Bush.” The media is banned from hearing Mr. Bush talk about “eight momentous years in the Oval Office” and “the challenges facing the world in the 21st century.”

Organizers hope Tuesday’s outdoor rally will attract at least as many as the estimated 1,500 luncheon-goers.

I’m sure Mr. Bush is going to feel the love inside the convention center. Outside, not so much.

Calgary, of course, is a notoriously conservative city and home to an estimated 75,000 American citizens, according to a government estimate, making it a natural choice for the man some have called the worst president in U.S. history to start testing the waters abroad.

Event organizers Christian Darbyshire and Andy McCreath of tinePublic Inc. have brought many notables to Calgary, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and across the country. They politely decline to comment on the details around this event. The media ban. The speaking fee. Protests. Security. Attendance.

“We’ve done a lot of other events like this,” Mr. Darbyshire said simply.

It will be the first of almost a dozen reported speaking engagements Mr. Bush will hold this year. Activists in Calgary won’t let it be easy.

Footwear has been collected and a cannon has been constructed to toss shoes at an effigy of the much-maligned leader in homage to the Iraqi reporter who chucked his loafers at Mr. Bush last December and was sentenced last week to three years in prison.

Some activists are talking about trying to arrest Mr. Bush for war crimes. A noble if not far-fetched sentiment to be sure, but perhaps the best thing that could be done to show their feelings about Mr. Bush and his legacy would be to let the wheels of justice take their turn in the investigations that are quietly going on.

Besides, if they make the arrest warrants stick, the Crown would be forced to keep Mr. Bush in Canada, and that’s a punishment I wouldn’t wish on our friends in the True North.