Sunday, August 20, 2006

Step 3: Fax received, the wait begins

So...the first fax seems to have gotten lost in transit or on arrival. When I called to confirm that it was received, friendly Ryan drew a blank. I faxed my letter a second time and a few days later, Ryan called to say that it had been received. Very exciting!

Now I will wait a few days and then call to find out the status of my request.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Step 2. Fax letter to the White House Scheduling Office

This is what I faxed today to the White House:

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to request the privilege of meeting with you. I have never before met a President of the United States, nor have I previously met you. I imagine such a meeting is not an easy thing to arrange. You have so many important, powerful people with whom to meet. I am just an ordinary American citizen concerned for the state of our democracy and future.

I feel, though, that in a democracy like ours, where no man is King (and no woman Queen) and all are equal in the eyes of the law and the Constitution, an ordinary citizen should be able to meet with the man who was elected by, and is responsible for the well-being and security of, the citizens of this great nation.

Why do I want to meet with you?

I will be very honest: I am not one of your supporters, politically. I strongly disagree with many of things you do and say. I don't want to meet with you, however, in order to talk about our differences of opinion.

No, I want to meet you and spend a little bit of time talking to you, because I have also been extremely dismayed with how you have been presented through the media (the only way I have been able to directly experience you, to date).

If I had nothing to go by except for the newspapers, television and blogs, I would have to conclude that you are very friendly, but not very intelligent. People make fun of the way you talk, and your command of the English language. They say that you are a puppet pulled by Vice President Dick Cheney's strings. They say you would rather take another vacation with your dog than actually buckle down to the tough business of running the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world.

I don't like my President being portrayed that way, or to be that way. I travel to Europe a few times a year to teach software programmers how to write better code. I am continually shocked at the low opinion many Europeans have of my President. That is terrible, not only for you, but for America as a whole.

So I would like to meet with you so that I can be assured that the way the media covers my President is inaccurate and insulting.

I would like to meet with you so that I can experience first-hand your intelligence, compassion, sense of humor, and leadership.

I look forward to hearing from your Scheduling Office on a time when I can come to Washington DC or Crawford, or wherever it is most convenient, to meet with you.


Steven Feuerstein

Monday, August 07, 2006

Step 1: Call the White House and ask for a meeting

That seems like the logical place to start.

So I called 202.456.1414 and told the person who answered "I would like to meet with the President."

He very politely connected me to the Scheduling Office, no questions asked.

Ashley at the Scheduling Office also didn't bat an eye (as far as I could tell, us being separated by 1,000 miles and phone lines) when I asked for a meeting with the President.

She probably gets that request a lot.

But I've got to give Ashley and the Bush Administration credit.

She did not ask me how much I had contributed to the Republican Leadership Council. She did not ask if I was a personal friend of the President (not that that necessarily does you much good as the late Ken Lay found out).

Instead, she said "OK, how it works is that you submit in writing a letter via fax or mail that's sort of like an invitation."

I can fax my letter to 202.456.6208 or send it to:

White House
Scheduling Office
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20502

Whew. This is going to be harder than I thought.

OK, I will write a letter. I will then fax it and mail it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I want to meet with the President of the United States

I want to meet face to face with my president, with the man to whom I have vested enormous authority over me and my family, in exchange for a fine quality of life and physical security.

I want to meet with President Bush and see what sort of man he is. Does that sound like an outlandish thing to want to do? Do I sound disrespectful? I don't see why you should feel that way.

I am an American citizen. I pay taxes (lots of them, in fact) and those taxes pay the salary of the President, and everyone else in government. In that sense, I and millions of others are President Bush's boss.

Since this is a democracy, some believe the greatest the world has ever known, our leaders are or should be accountable to us.

The President is not a King. We do not have a monarchy in which the Glorious Leader cannot be questioned. We, very fortunately, do not live in a nation in which it is a crime to meet the eye of the President (an act punishable by death in some monarchies in the past).

It should not be difficult for an American citizen to meet with President Bush, especially if that citizen is ready to fly anywhere in the country to attend such a meeting.

I want to sit down with President Bush and have a simple conversation between two human beings. I would like to know things like....

Is he sharp as a whip, eager to take me on in debate on the major issues of the day? What better way to test one's ideas, to celebrate the power of the freedom of speech?

Does he exude the sort of gravity, a weightfulness, that a man with the future of the world on his shoulders (at least more than any other single human) would naturally acquire?

Does he seem respectful of those around him, particularly those who serve him?

Is he truly compassionate? It is easy to say you care, quite another to really mean it and act on it.

I want to see for myself, because from what I can tell from his appearances on television and the occasional quotation in the newspapers (the only ways that I have been able to experience the President directly, to date) it seems quite possible that George W. Bush is, in fact, a sorry excuse for a President.

If I met him and was able to experience his integrity first hand, I might be less troubled by his apparent trampling on the Constitution and the principle of the separate of powers.

If I met him and was able to feel his compassion, I might be less horrified by the agony his policies have caused the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of human beings.

So I am going to call the White House on Monday, August 7, and ask for an appointment with the President. At his convenience, his choice of location. I will chronicle my efforts to meet with the President in this blog.

Now, just so we are entirely clear on what I want to accomplish, I need to spell out my requirements for this meeting. Clearly, if I only am given five minutes to shake his hand and make small talk, I will not be able to take the measure of this man.

So here are the minimum requirements for my meeting (hopefully they sound reasonable to you):
  • The meeting should last at least a half hour.
  • We don't have to be alone (I am certain that will not be allowed), but those others present should be silent observers. I want to be able to talk with my President directly and without intermediaries.
  • We must treat each other with the respect due to fellow, equal citizens of our wonderful nation. We are all equal under the law, aren't we?
  • The meeting can be recorded. In fact, I would encourage the media to attend.
Ah, I bet that some of you are now thinking to yourself: so this is just some grandstanding by another commie-pinko-liberal-radical-tree-hugger, out to embarras the President.

Not at all!

I believe that a critical element of a successful, working and thriving democracy is openness and transparency. I have nothing to hide in a conversation with my President. Why would he have anything to hide from me? He surely is not going to divulge any secret information to me.

So that is my plan. I start on Monday. I will let you know how it goes. And I encourage you to do the same: ask for a meeting with the President, your President, our #1 Public Servant.