With the nation's top Democrat less than 12 hours away from delivering a controversial address to Notre Dame's graduates, some protesters outside the Catholic university were wondering Saturday why President Obama's Republican opposition hadn't shown up from Washington.
Anti-abortion demonstrators are making their way to South Bend, Ind., by the busload this weekend to protest Obama's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research. They argue Notre Dame shouldn't have invited Obama to speak or offered him an honorary degree.
Judy Zabik said she was "very upset because there's not one politician here."
"And what an opportunity missed for the Republicans to take advantage of the passion and the devotion that these people have," Zabik said. "Where are our leaders, not only in our church, but in our nation?"
One exception was 2008 presidential candidate Alan Keyes, who remained jailed Saturday following his second arrest the day before for trespassing on Notre Dame's campus.
As a member of the Independent Party, Zabik, along with her husband, Bob, and son, Michael, were among roughly 50 protesters who congregated on four corners at Angela Boulevard and Notre Dame Avenue, just outside the university's gates.
Bob Zabik said he was more concerned with the lack of Catholic bishops publicly condemning the university's decision to host President Obama. As of Friday, at least 74 Catholic bishops nationwide have voiced their disapproval.
"It's words. We need their physical presence to do something," he said. "Where are our bishops? Where are our shepherds? They're supposed to be leading the flock, and where are they? You don't see anyone out here."
Pastor Joseph Larson, of the Doers of the Word Baptist Church of Missouri, stood just feet away with an enlarged, graphic image of an aborted fetus next to a quarter for size comparison. He was angered that he risked arrest if he ventured onto campus with the tabletop-sized sign.
"They didn't want that inside," Larson said. "So we're bringing it out to the streets because the truth has to be told. A nation that destroys its own children has no future. That's got to be the most common sense in the world."
Andrew Beachum, of Elkhart, Ind., learned the hard way last Friday when he joined anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who runs stopobamanotredame.com, and carried plastic dolls covered in fake blood on the campus.
"The constitution of Notre Dame says they're willing to dialogue and be a school of free speech, but instead they arrested us," Beachum said. "We were just praying, we weren't being violent or anything."
Meanwhile, Ashley Baldridge, a graduate student of biology at Notre Dame, said she was appalled by the "gory images" held by protesters like Larson.
"The attention here should be on the graduates and I don't really like the spectacle created here," she said. "All of the protesters are not from the Notre Dame community and I don't like that people are putting gory images all over town and right at the gateway of our campus. It makes me sick."