I was not surprised by the news that President Joe Biden was going to visit the Pacific Northwest. It’s fundraising season, and there are plenty of deep-pocketed Democrats in Washington and Oregon. And I also wasn’t surprised that the president was touting his infrastructure bill, arguably his biggest victory in Congress so far, or talking about the Interstate 5 bridge replacement project, which is one of the greatest needs in the Pacific Northwest.
I was surprised that he missed the opportunity to travel to Vancouver to deliver his speech.
When the news first broke, I predicted Biden would be speaking at Waterfront Vancouver, where the visuals are much better than on the Portland side. I thought the contrast between the new private investment on the river and the aging bridge would be the perfect visual backdrop.
Now you know why I’m into journalism and not managing political appearances!
Anyway, I took the opportunity to dig into the list of presidential visits to Clark County that Gregg Herrington, a legendary Colombian journalist and editor, gave me years ago. Here is his list (not counting the future or former presidents who have visited him).
- October 2, 1880: Rutherford B. Hayes visits Vancouver, the first sitting president to do so. Hayes and his wife attend the Methodist church service at Eighth and Washington streets on Sunday, October 3. The next day they headed upstream, but briefly stopped in Vancouver on the way back on October 7.
- October 2, 1909: William Howard Taft’s train crosses Vancouver around 6:30 a.m. from Tacoma to Portland. No public appearance.
- October 11, 1911: Taft addresses the local crowd at the railroad depot from the rear platform of his train. Taft speaks for about 10 minutes, and as he speaks the train begins to pull away. He waves his hand and says goodbye.
- July 4, 1923: After a speech in Portland, Warren G. Harding’s train stops at 11:30 p.m., and he addresses 5,000 people from his train to the Vancouver depot. AW Calder presents Harding with several boxes of dried prunes from Clark County. Within a month, Harding is dead. Despite a long-standing local myth, prunes have never been implicated.
- September 28, 1937: Franklin D. Roosevelt is at the Bonneville Dam, via Portland, for the dam starting ceremony. In the late afternoon, it passes through Vancouver to the railroad depot. He greets the children from the back car before his train departs for Seattle.
- September 23, 1942: Roosevelt visits the Alcoa aluminum plant in Vancouver. Due to the war, the tour was kept secret from the general public, with the media not reporting it until FDR returned to Washington. The story of the Colombian takes place on October 1st.
- May 21, 1980: Jimmy Carter begins a tour of the devastation caused by the May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens with a U.S. Forest Service briefing at the Federal Building, 500 W. 12th St.
- February 14, 1996: Bill Clinton tours much of flood-ravaged western Washington, including Woodland, taking a 45-minute tour of homes damaged by the North Fork of the Lewis River.
- September 19, 1996: Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and their wives take part in an evening rally on Officers Row. This is the first time a president and vice president have appeared together in the county.
- August 21, 2003: George W. Bush flies to Portland for a fundraising luncheon. His motorcade crosses the Interstate 205 bridge to State Route 14 and heads west to the I-5 bridge and crosses it back into Oregon and on to the University of Portland. The motorcade does not stop here and does not pass through Vancouver on the way back to the airport.
- August 13, 2004: Bush’s motorcade travels via State Highway 14 between PDX and campaign appearances in the Portland area, both out and back, but does not stop.