By Dave Gram
The Associated Press
MONTPELIER -- It's a land of liberal politics, tie-dyed entrepreneurs and rugged Yankee individualism, the state that gave us President Calvin Coolidge, screaming Howard Dean and socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
These days, Vermont has another noteworthy distinction: It's the only state President Bush hasn't visited as president.
For the nation's 43rd commander in chief, the clock is ticking. He has 17 months left to squeeze in a visit to the bluest of blue states.
Not that people here are holding their breath. After all, it's a state that voted against him in 2000 and 2004, and whose state Senate approved a resolution calling for his impeachment earlier this year.
"The vast bulk of Vermonters not only don't want to see him in Vermont, they don't want to see him in the White House any longer," said Garrison Nelson, a professor of political science at the University of Vermont.
Opinions vary as to why Bush has been a Green Mountain no-show.
"He's saving the best for last," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., one of his harshest critics in Congress.
Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has directed a flurry of subpoenas at administration officials, trying to get to the bottom of electronic eavesdropping, the firing of federal prosecutors and other issues.
Despite his ideological opposition, Sanders, I-Vt., thinks a trip north would be an excellent way for Bush to break his tradition of tightly controlled appearances before supportive audiences.
"I'd love to seem him do something which he virtually never does," Sanders said. "In the tradition of New England and in the tradition of Vermont, have a town meeting and allow people to ask questions that he very rarely has heard in person."
Dan DeWalt, a Newfane Selectboard member and a leader of the Vermont impeachment movement, shares Sanders' view. His message: Bring him on.
"It really is useful for people to hear from folks who disagree with them," DeWalt said. "He's been surrounded by yes people, or he's been one of the yes people. ... That's how you get yourself into quagmires, disasters."
Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth College, said Bush has a duty to visit Vermont, if only to honor the fact that it ranks high in Iraq war casualties for a state with only about 620,000 people.
She called the fact that he hasn't visited yet "lousy."
But there's a bright side, she says. Presidential visits are disruptive events.
"It shuts down the airport; it shuts down traffic. Pretty much everything grinds to a halt when the president's in town." .