Vermont has gotten a lot of attention this past week. ABC News talked about cheese and maple syrup. CNN called Vermont "a picture-perfect place" where the "rivers and mountains and covered bridges are a draw to some 10 million visitors a year." Both network news outlets noted, however, that of all the places President Bush has traveled since he became president almost seven years ago, Vermont is not on the list. In fact, Vermont is the only one of the 50 states Bush has not visited since taking office.
Senator Bernie Sanders has urged the president to visit Vermont. "He'll have a good visit," the senator told CNN. [He] might be able to learn something,"
President Bush's forgotten state?
Vermont is a picture perfect place — its rivers and mountains and covered bridges are a draw to some 10 million visitors a year.
Yet, the Green Mountain State is the forgotten place in the crowded travelogue of President Bush — the only state he has failed to visit in his presidency.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — a self described socialist — is a fierce Bush critic whether the issue is the Iraq war, the economy, or climate change. Callers to his office, Sanders says, often demand that the president be impeached.
But Sanders all but dares Bush to visit, saying he would benefit from sitting down with his critics. His Senate Web site even displays a banner with the headline "Bush stays away from Vermont."
"If he comes up in the fall - he can see the changing of the leaves," Sanders told CNN. "He'll have a good visit."
"[He] might be able to learn something," he added. "This president will probably go down in history as the least popular president in history of this country — he should go forward and find out why that is so."
But University of Vermont political science professor Garrison Nelson sees no upside in the president paying a visit to Vermonters.
"It is a photo opportunity he does not need," Nelson said. "I cannot imagine any assemblage in the state of Vermont that would give him an unalloyed positive reception."
Bush lost big there in 2000 and again in 2004. The war is enormously unpopular, and the state Senate even adopted a symbolic resolution last April calling for his impeachment.
But it's not all personal, Nelson says.
"When the Republican Party moved South and West, you know towards the sun belt and of course toward Christian conservatism, it lost Vermonters."
Vermont does have a Republican governor, Jim Douglas, but he is a throwback to the moderate breed of Republicanism that once thrived across New England. Douglas notes the first President Bush visited Vermont last among the 50 states, and predicts the son will do the same — despite his low popularity.
"He can take it," Douglas said of a potential Vermont visit. "He has certainly taken a lot of hostility and tough questions and I am sure he can do that here."
But some Vermonters do get to meet the president themselves.
Regina Gilbert traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to meet the president in 2005 -her only child, Kyle, was killed in Iraq on August 6, 2003. Vermont has lost two dozen soldiers in Iraq — the highest in per capita death tolls — more than reason enough Gilbert says for the president to visit.
"He asked me something that surprised me: does it ever get easier?" Gilbert said. "And I just looked at him and looked at my husband and said absolutely not. I said this is a hole in my heart and it is always going to be there."
CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
Good Morning America
Anchor: The great state of Vermont. It has cheese. It has maple syrup. What the Green Mountain State does not have is a visit from the president, and the people who live there are none too pleased about getting the cold shoulder from the leader of the free world. Here's ABC's David Wright:
Reporter: If Air Force One gave frequent flyer miles, President Bush would have a platinum card. In six years he's been to 62 countries, some of them more than once. He's been to 49 of the 50 states, many of them more than once.
Reporter: The president has been to all the places Howard Dean wanted to go and then some, but never to Dean's home state.
Senator Bernie Sanders; "But never here."
Reporter: Why not?
Sanders: "I think he understands that the people of the state of Vermont have very strong disagreements with his views."
Reporter: Vermonters tend to be eco-smart and gay-friendly. They proudly wear Birkenstocks, not cowboy boots.
But per capita Vermont has lost more sons in Iraq than any other state.
This month the president told reporters he'd even consider vacationing in France if his new friend, the French president, invited him.
President Bush: "Of course I would go, absolutely, absolutely, particularly if he could find a place for me to ride my mountain bike."
Reporter: Vermont is famous for its mountain biking, and it's close enough that the president could practically ride his bike here from Kennebunkport, Maine.
Senator Patrick Leahy: "We've got some of the greatest places for mountain biking you can find. Certainly it would be more challenging than some of the flatlands of Texas."
Reporter: We sought out Ben Cohen, the Ben of Ben & Jerry's. He served up an array of presidential sundaes to entice a presidential visit.
Ben Cohen: …the ‘Delegation Elation,' ‘Two Scoops on the Left, One Scoop on the Extreme Left,' and that one is ‘Rocky Rove."
Reporter: The reaction in Crawford?
White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe: "President Bush loves ice cream. His favorite is Blue Bell Ice Cream from Texas.
Reporter: Perhaps the president just doesn't know what he's missing.