Fleischer speaks at Bush-Cheney fundraiser in Vermont

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(Host) About a mile away from Dean and the Verizon picket, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told Vermont Republicans that he thinks President Bush will face a tough re-election campaign next year. But Fleischer said that Bush is the best person to lead the country in its war on terrorism.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) About three dozen protesters greeted Fleischer as he arrived at the Vermont National Country Club for a GOP fundraising luncheon. The group rang a bell and chanted every time a car arrived carrying participants for the fundraiser.

The cost of the event was $1,500 for individuals and $2,500 for couples. All the money raised will be used by the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Fleischer told the crowed of roughly 75 donors that their contributions are critical because he thinks Bush faces a very competitive campaign next year. However Fleischer never mentioned Democratic candidate Howard Dean during his speech:

(Fleischer) “But we are in a 50-50 country and learning the lesson of 2000 we can take nothing for granted. And this administration, this president and the team around him will take nothing for granted.”

(Kinzel) Fleischer says there are many important reasons why the president needs to be re-elected and at the top of his list is national security:

(Fleischer) “Does anybody think for a moment if they could attack us on our shore again that somehow they wouldn’t? Of course they seek to do it and this is why leadership and strength in the Oval Office are so paramount to continue and to protect our country.”

(Kinzel) Jillian Franks of Essex Junction was one of the people protesting on the highway just outside the main parking lot of the Vermont National Country Club. She says she was there to criticize the influence of money on the country’s political system:

(Franks) “I’m here today to highlight the disparity between a $1,500 a plate lunch that allows people access to the political process and the difference if you’re a parent who has to accept state subsidy for your child in child care. And the state will pay $1.83 for your child’s lunch and those people feel disenfranchised because they know that money talks in politics.”

(Kinzel) The organizer of the event, Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee, said he hopes to raise about $125,000 from the lunch and he said the protesters should realize that the president has taken steps to improve their lives:

(Vallee) “I’d say to them that some of the things we’re fighting for around the world in this war on terrorism are to protect the rights of free speech, and they should be grateful they have the right to express themselves.”

(Kinzel) Vallee says he expects to hold additional fundraisers for the president’s re-election campaign in the coming months.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel.

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