June 27, 2008
By Jackie Best
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
WASHINGTON - After being the president for eight years, George Bush has made a lasting impression on many Americans. The sponsors of a painted bus that started a nationwide tour Tuesday hope to keep that impression - a negative one - rolling long enough to influence the presidential election.
The Bush Legacy Bus is a “museum on wheels” created by Americans United for Change that displays what the group says are the failures of President George Bush and his supporters.
United for Change is a grassroots organization made up of unions and other liberal groups that advocates new policy priorities and leadership.
The Bush administration and those who support his conservative ideologies need to be held accountable for the failures and problems they have created for Americans, said John Sweeney, president of AFL-CIO, at the kickoff of the Bush Legacy Bus Tour.
“Workers are earning less, and prices are going up,” Sweeney said.
“This is our contribution to sticking a stake in the heart of conservatism,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change.
The bus is 45 feet long and weighs 28 tons. It runs on biodiesel and will make 150 stops across the U.S., including the Democratic and Republican national conventions. The bus cost more than $1 million in construction and other expenses and is funded by organizations such as the Center for American Progress Action Fund, VoteVets.org, MoveOn.org Political Action and Healthcare for America Now.
The bus has interactive exhibits featuring the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, education, the environment, the economy, health care and workers’ rights.
“I think the intent was to make sure the American people don’t forget the impact of the Bush policies,” said Daniel Bachhuber, 50, a Washington executive for a rural rights group, after touring the bus. “I think they’ve captured a lot of areas that have really affected a lot of people - from gas prices to Iraq, and of course, Katrina.”
Timelines, photos and videos from events during Bush’s presidency are displayed inside the bus.
“I thought it was a great summary of everything that was wrong,” said Thea Lee, 49, an AFL-CIO employee. “There were great graphics and great videos.”
The kickoff also included speakers who said they have been affected by the Bush administration and conservative ideologies.
“The Bush legacy has meant hard times and hard work, with no bright future in sight,” said Treena Walker, 36, of Washington, a general cleaner at the National Archives and a member of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ.
Walker said she often has to choose between filling up her tank with gas and buying groceries. She is a single mother of three children and said she is sad that her daughter, Brittany, has to work during the summer instead of doing the fun activities most 14-year-olds get to do, like going to the pool. She also has trouble paying for her 13-year-old son Corey’s asthma medication and said she often must take him to the emergency room to get it.
“It’s great to do something like this, to get out and show how it is affecting people like me,” Walker said of the bus.
Kathryn Vincent was at the kickoff to speak on behalf of her sister, Glenda Chapman, who died from ovarian cancer at age 46. Chapman was a housekeeper near Ann Arbor, Mich., who did not have health insurance and could not afford the bills to detect and treat the cancer when she first had signs of it. She recently died, leaving two children behind, Vincent said.
“That is the legacy of the last eight years, but it does not have to be the legacy of the future,” said Vincent, 52, an Ann Arbor teacher.
Vincent said she was moved by the bus. She said the exhibits were so intense she had to leave for a while.
Americans United for Change was started in 2005 and decided in November to create the legacy bus when the group was looking for a way to participate in the presidential elections. It decided to focus on President Bush.
“There is virtually no area of life that is not worse off than eight years ago,” said Lee Saunders, assistant to the president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We must make sure Americans know he is not just a bad president, he is one of the worst presidents America has ever seen.”