Joseph Midkiff * firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of about 25, which included George W. Bush supporters and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson campaign workers, listened to an address from Washington, D.C., by Vice President Dick Cheney on a speaker phone in Emerson's campaign office in Cape Girardeau on Thursday.Southeast Missourian
Vice President Dick Cheney was the guest of honor at an assortment of parties Thursday night, but he phoned in his presence.
Grassroots Republican organizations across the country gathered at homes, restaurants and campaign offices in the first of a series of Parties for the President to promote the Bush/Cheney ticket for re-election. Thursday night's gathering of about 25 people at the Team Emerson Headquarters in Cape Girardeau was one of four in Cape Girardeau County, one of 19 in the 8th District, one of 216 statewide and one of 5,000 across the country.
Cheney joined all of them through a conference call. Participants gathered around a speaker phone and heard five selected Republican supporters from across the United States, including a health care professional from Lemay, Mo., ask questions of the vice-president.
The questions dealt with issues the Bush/Cheney ticket supports: The nationalization of Iraq, tort reform for health care, media bias -- and one question from a sixth-grade student in New Mexico who was named for the vice president and wanted to know how to help preserve the cowboy traditions of the old West.
"It was a really neat experience to be able to hear first hand from the vice-president," said Mike Shepard, a communications major from Southeast Missouri State University.
Marilyn Kneir of Cape Girardeau said before Cheney spoke that she hoped he would reassure the people about whether or not the president will stick to his target date of June 30 and if the White House still believes that the Iraqi people can take over their government. That was Cheney's first question from a caller in Ohio.
Cheney stressed that June 30 is still the target date, that an interim government will be in place until the Iraqis can elect one early next year, and that a preliminary Constitution has been drawn up. The increased opposition reported from Iraqi insurgents is expected, he said.
"The enemy is well aware that their circumstances will become more difficult," Cheney said. "They will do everything they can to derail this process. This is the best chance they have to defeat our efforts."
Cheney assured Aaron Herr of Lemay that the president is committed to tort reform and "will be pushing it." A caller from Iowa was concerned about media bias; Cheney reminded her that a free press "is part of what goes on in a free society," and that he prefers to tune into Fox News.
To the caller from Florida who is head of Asians for Bush and wanted to know how to get the Bush/Cheney message out, Cheney said that grassroots efforts such as the Parties for the President is one way. Registering people to vote is another.
And to young Cheney Raben who wants to preserve the cowboy tradition, the vice-president urged him to learn to recognize cowboy ways that have become American ways, such as limited government, belief in the individual and self-realization.
"Do everything you can to learn about and support our past," said Cheney, himself a "cowboy" from Wyoming and a member of the Buffalo Bill Museum board of directors.
Another series of Parties for the President will be held in July.