Bush comes to Kent
Protesters kept at distance during Cappiello fundraiser
BY MEGAN BRODERICK AND BRIGITTE RUTHMAN
KENT — The 450 guests at former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s estate may have had deep pockets, but they dined on simple fare at a buffetstyle lunch under a tent on Friday to hear from President Bush.
Several helicopters hovered above the Kissinger property on Henderson Road, where guests paying $1,000 per head and $10,000 for a photo with the president gathered to raise funds for state Sen. David J. Cappiello, who is challenging first-time Democratic U.S. Rep. Christopher S. Murphy in the 5th District. They raised about $750,000.
A Secret Service car drove up and down quiet Route 341, and state police kept post as a line of cars snaked down Henderson Road more than half-a-mile to be checked in by security hours before the afternoon luncheon. About 2 1/ 2 miles away in Warren, a crowd of about 100 protesters gathered for several hours before taking their signs and chants to downtown Kent, shouting “Hey, hey, ho, ho ... Bush’s war has got to go!” drawing shopkeepers outside to watch.
Other than the 30 minutes protesters spent marching up and down Main Street, downtown Kent on Friday mostly bustled with the activity of a warm, sunny spring day.
“We just came for coffee. We forgot all about this,” said Heather Elsesser of New Milford, who sat on a bench outside the Kent Coffee and Chocolate Co. with her husband, Kurt.
Several protesters tried to get closer to Henderson Road, but were shooed away. Signs banning parking on the shoulder spanned several miles on Route 341.
A caravan of protesters drove slowly past Henderson Road on their way to Kent, led by a yellow car pulling a trailer with a model of Bush perched on a fake nuclear warhead.
“I just don’t agree with war in any shape or form,” said one of the protesters, Tina Parziale, a sophomore at University of Connecticut’s Torrington campus.
Protesters held signs with messages such as, “All we are saying is give peace a chance” and “Bring our troops home, end the war now.”
“I don’t have any false ideasthat anybody of significance is going to drive through here,” said Davyne Verstandig, a protester from Washington, Conn., and director of the Litchfield County Writer’s Project.
However, she said protesting against Bush, the war in Iraq and a variety of other issues was important to raise public awareness.
After arriving by helicopter around 1:30 p.m., Bush reportedly focused his comments on his support for Cappiello, but also commented on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said state Republican Party Chairman Christopher Healy.
Bush reflected on his presidency and found time in a private conversation with Healy to ask how former Gov. John G. Rowland was faring in his new role promoting economicdevelopment in Waterbury.
The lunch, catered by The Pantry, a gourmet cafe in nearby Washington, featured finger foods, sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres.
Belgique Patissierie in Kent, which catered dessert at the White House when Queen Elizabeth visited last May, donated 350 pieces of assorted chocolates to the fundraiser, according to coowner Susan Gilissen.
Washington Selectman James L. Brinton attended, thanks to the Washington Republican Town Committee, which pulled a lucky number from a hat after committee members
decided to send two members.
“The security force was enormous,” said Brinton, who arrived about 10 a.m. and summed up what for many was a historic event in a small town that hasn’t had a sitting president visit since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Brinton said he was impressed not only by what was said, but the enormity of the weight the president carries on his shoulder.
“Like him or not, it is very moving to be in the presence of the president of our country,” Brinton said.
Murphy, who declined the president’s offer to fly home for the weekend aboard Air Force One and, instead, took a seat on a Southwest Airlines flight, called for a fundraiser of his own where 1,000 constituents contribute $50 or more as a counter to Cappiello’s Bush fundraiser.
Cappiello said Friday evening that regardless of public opinion about Bush, he was proud to welcome him to his district.
“It was a historic event, spending the afternoon with the Kissingers and the president of the United States,” Cappiello said.
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Bush Visit Mixes Policy, Big-Money Politics
Bush Visit A Mix Of Voluntarism, Big-Money Politics
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, DANIELA ALTIMARI And DANIEL E. GOREN
Courant Staff Writers
April 26, 2008
President Bush mixed big-money politics and celebrity culture with riffs on foreign policy, voluntarism and African malaria Friday in two stops in Connecticut.
In Hartford, he mingled with an " American Idol" contestant, two professional basketball players and schoolchildren at a Boys & Girls Club event focusing on U.S. efforts to fight malaria in Africa.
The president tied his anti-malaria initiative to the fight on terrorism, saying that extremists find recruits where there is hopelessness.
"The best way to defeat an ideology of darkness is to spread the light of hope," Bush said. "And that's exactly what we're doing."
Then he dropped in by helicopter on 450 donors at Henry Kissinger's estate in Kent, raising $750,000 for Connecticut Republicans and David Cappiello, the GOP's challenger in the 5th Congressional District.
By mixing policy with politics, taxpayers largely underwrote the substantial logistics of getting the president to the private $1,000-a-ticket event in Kent, where he posed with some donors for $10,000 a photo.
Police kept war protesters out of earshot in Hartford and at least 2 miles out of sight in Kent.
Eric Stroker, one of the protesters and a Democratic selectman from Morris, wasn't troubled by the fact that Bush wouldn't hear their chants or see their signs.
"This is about us making a statement," Stroker said. "It doesn't matter what he sees; it's what we can do. That's the great thing about being an American. You're allowed to do this."
But Flo Woodiel, a veteran peace activist from West Hartford, expressed frustration at a staging area in Warren that they couldn't get closer.
"Bush seems to blow in and out of places" without interacting with the public, she said. "We're peaceful types. We're just expressing our opinion that the war is a bad thing."
Bush was welcomed in Hartford by singer Melinda Doolittle, an "American Idol" finalist, and two former University of Connecticut basketball players, Charlie Villanueva of the Milwaukee Bucks and Tamika (Williams) Raymond of the Connecticut Sun.
The president easily mingled with children in two rooms at the Northwest Boys &Girls Club, near two housing projects in the North End. Both rooms were equipped with theatrical lights for the day.
The children, who usually do not arrive until after school, were brought in especially for the late-morning presidential visit.
"What's happening here?" Bush asked as he viewed displays on malaria.
He slipped on reading glasses and crouched to look over the shoulder of a boy who showed him a website on malaria. When introduced to Jorge Mena, the president smiled and quietly said, "My name is Jorge."
The president launched his anti-malaria initiative in 2005, buying mosquito netting that protects children as they sleep, an effort that he says has saved thousands of lives. The goal is to cut malaria deaths by half.
After meeting with the children, Bush spoke to 100 people in the club's gymnasium.
"It's an ambitious goal, but the program is off to a very strong start," Bush said. "In just two years, the initiative has helped provide bed nets and anti-malarial medicine, insecticide sprays and prenatal drugs to an estimated 25 million people in sub-Sahara Africa."
Bush said he came to Hartford, the birthplace of Boys & Girls Clubs, because the organization is an example of the voluntarism he is trying to promote. The clubs have raised $25,000 for mosquito netting.
Americans can afford to be generous, he said.
"Some people say, 'Well, what about our own people?' And my answer is, we're plenty rich to help our own and to help others," Bush said. "We've been a blessed nation, and it's in our interest to share our blessings with others."
He gave awards to Zachary Ellenthal, 13, of Wilton, who raised $11,000 by directing his bar mitzvah guests to donate to the charity, Malaria No More, and to Allyson Brown, 18, of Florida, who organized fundraising dances for malaria. He also recognized the Boys &Girls Clubs.
Bush arrived at Bradley International Airport at 10:32 a.m. aboard Air Force One. Gov. M. Jodi Rell greeted him at the Air National Guard base.
The president briefly conversed and posed for pictures with Kevin Eberly Jr., a 17-year-old student at Wooster School in Danbury, and Joe Lapenta, who has spent 68 years working with the Boys &Girls Club in Hartford. He gave them Volunteer Service Awards.
Eberly raised $16,000 for USO Operation Phone Home, which sends phone cards to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan so they will be able to call loved ones. He also raised $7,300 for two soldiers who, while serving abroad, lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District, the only Republican in the House from New England, accompanied Bush to Bradley on Air Force One and to Kent aboard the presidential helicopter, Marine One.
Rell did not attend the fundraiser.
Republican State Chairman Chris Healy said 60 percent of the proceeds will go to the Cappiello campaign and the rest will go to the state GOP.
Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low in Connecticut as the clock runs down on his last year in office, but he was an upbeat campaigner Friday, Healy said.
"The president has a lot of fight left in him," he said.
Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she hopes Bush returns.
"We hope that President Bush comes back often and continues to pose for pictures with David Cappiello and Chris Shays," she said.
"With every visit to our state, he will remind the citizens of Connecticut that if these two individuals are elected to the U.S. Congress, they will carry on Mr. Bush's failed policies well after he moves out of the White House."