Reporter Michael Brick went to College Station, Texas, to preview acollege visit by Barack Obama commemorating the 20th anniversary of the first President Bush's "Points of Light" volunteer organization.
In the condescending "At A&M, a Dance of Decorum for Obama Visit," Brick posed fears that campus conservative activists at Texas A&M might embarrass themselves and their college with their "unchecked fervor," which "can be a raw and fearsome thing." Last year, you see, "the Young Conservatives embarrassed the university by throwing eggs at a picture of Mr. Obama."
Brick is being awfully protective of Obama. If defacing a picture of a president is an automatic embarrassment to a university, then every big college in Americashould bered-faced, since posters of Bush as Hitler were pretty much de rigueur at any decent campus protest. But the Times never showed any concern for campus hatred of Republicans.
Brick profiled Justin Pulliam, chairman of the campus chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, who he introduced as "The most dangerous young man on campus," whose group is organizing a protest against Obama.
All across campus, from the large-animal veterinary clinics to the storied Military Walk, students, professors and administrators have been bracing for the arrival on Friday of President Obama, an admitted Democrat and, here, a suspected socialist. For an institution often cast as country cousin to the University of Texas at Austin, a turn in the national spotlight will present the chance to put on a display of diversity, hospitality and achievement. Or not.
Founded during Reconstruction as a men's technical college, A&M (which stood for Agricultural and Mechanical) has nurtured a stoic brand of conservatism steeped in the tradition of its Aggie farmer nickname and the Corps of Cadets.
For his part, Mr. Bush has been taking no chances. After a summer of contentious nationwide protests culminating in an outburst during a Congressional address, Mr. Bush issued a call for decorum on the front page of the student newspaper this week.
"Howdy," his letter began, going on to renounce politics for the occasion and conclude: "I cannot wait for Obama to experience the open, decent and welcoming Aggie spirit for himself. This will be an important national moment, and a moment for Texas A&M to shine in the national spotlight as it always does. I hope and believe it will serve as a point of Aggie pride for many years to come."
But among the great Aggie traditions, few outshine the spirit of the Twelfth Man, a reference to the stadium crowds at Kyle Field taking an active role, by force of volume and sheer will, in the outcome of events.
Unchecked fervor, of course, can be a raw and fearsome thing. Last year, the Young Conservatives embarrassed the university by throwing eggs at a picture of Mr. Obama ("He'll throw away your nest egg," was the topical message lost to history) on national television. T-shirts bearing the legend "Beat the Hell Outta Obama," an ad hominem twist on a football slogan, did little to improve matters.
Brick even tut-tutted the college kids' choice of protest-wear:
Believing his fellow students have lost their conservatism to a mix of apathy and professorial indoctrination, he has planned a rally for Friday afternoon involving costumes like Dr. Obama (a jab at the president's stance on health care), the Grim Reaper (a less subtle jab on the same topic), and Uncle Sam (?).
Can you imagine a Times reporter criticizing the costume choice at a left-wing protest at Berkeley, where they do it every weekend?