The black helicopters are still swooping around Boise's skies. I live only a few miles from the airport, and I just wish they'd get outta here and take He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named the heck with them. In between their subjective gushing over what a great speech Bush gave, the sorry-ass local TV stations are saying Bush is late because he's spending extra time with family members of fallen soldiers. Maybe so, except I know of at least one Idaho relative not invited due to her vocal opposition to the war.
As late as last night, I wasn't sure I'd show up to protest Bush's appearance at the Idaho Center today. What was the point, I wondered? His staff makes sure he almost never sees protesters. I was also up late last night staffing the Democratic booth at the Ada County Fair, and I just wasn't sure I wanted to make the effort.
But I got up at 6 a.m. after a poor night's sleep and drove to the car-pool lot midway between Boise and Nampa. Once on the scene about 7:15, I joined a group of folks lining up along Can-Ada Road by the Idaho Center. I hadn't brought a sign. Someone gave me a big one that read "Support the Troops. Bring Them Home." (More on this tomorrow ...)
By the time people started arriving for the speech, we had some 150 protesters lining the entrance route. We saw plenty of extended middle fingers and thumbs down, but we also heard honks of appreciation, peace signs, and thumbs-up gestures. A few of the latter came from troops bused in from Mountain Home Air Force Base and from individuals in fatigues arriving in private vehicles. As the traffic backed up, passengers had time to read all our signs and see our faces, and for us to see theirs. And that's when it hit me: I was there to bear witness. For nearly three hours, my presence there - and that of the other protesters - was a prayer for those entering to consider the idea that despite his rhetoric, Bush might not have the troops' best interests at heart. I have no doubt our presence unnerved some of those arriving, and I have no doubt that is a good and necessary thing.
I left the area as Bush's helicopters arrived, and I listened to his speech on the radio as I drove home (and on TV once I arrived). It was the usual litany of Bush's pretzel logic and sour attempts at humor, such as reminding this heavily National Guard-oriented audience that he, too, served in the Guard. (Meanwhile, the joke going around outside was this one: "What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq? Bush found a way out of Vietnam.")
To paraphrase some more of W's applause lines and offer my responses, if you harbor terrorists, you are as guilty as the terrorists. (OK, so why didn't we attack Saudi Arabia, home to most of the 9-11 hijackers?) We won't let terrorists establish bases in failed states. (Yet that's exactly what they're doing in Iraq, as Bush admitted in his speech. Other than Saddam, whom we could've removed via surgical special ops, Iraq was hardly a hive of terror before the U.S. occupation provoked such activity.) Interestingly, he had the temerity to mention Osama bin Laden, in a remark about going after the terrorists where they live so we don't have to confront them stateside. But of course, Osama is still on the loose.
Air Force One has just taken off. It's a breezy 76 here in Boise, but it's 97 in Texas, where we're sure they'll keep the heat on.