I got this close to the president:
I should've been even closer. But like a wise 80s band once said, blame it on the rain. President George W. Bush was supposed to get out of his fancy armored limosine and shake hands with those airmen you see in the picture above you. As luck would have it, big drops of rain started pouring from the sky, and Bush didn't want to get his hair wet. (OK I don't really know that, but several Air Force brass told me the president generally doesn't like to greet folks in the rain). So instead of coming within feet of moi, he bolted the other way and went directly up the stairs into Air Force One.
Yep, that's all the big man in charge gave me.
Rewind. So President Bush came to town on Wednesday to raise some money for Sen. McCain. In addition to a $10,000 per person luncheon, Bush hung out at Mitt Romney's Park City vacation home and invited others to join if they could afford it. And I definitely don't have the money to go to an event like that: $30,000 per person or $70,000 per couple.
The newspaper assigned me to hang out at the Utah Air National Guard base to welcome the commander in chief to the Beehive State. Wednesday was a beautiful, sunny day. It's funny how I had to spend hours going through secret service security checks just to see President Bush get off a plane and wave. But it was fun.
It's funny. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the president step out of the plane was to criticize his wave. No, he didn't have the beauty queen "elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist" thing going on. I thought it looked like he wanted to give me a high five.
The president didn't stay long. He shook hands, gave an award to this 24-year-old guy who's logged a ton of volunteer hours and then headed out to take people's money for McCain.
After he left, I was able to interview Julie Beck, president of the General Relief Society. The White House invited her to be part of the greeting committee when President Bush got off the plane. She had a comical exchange with the president. When he shook her hand, he asked who she was. After she told him she served in the Relief Society, the president asked, "Who do you relieve?" (ba dum bum). "Just about everyone," she answered. After the president left, Sister Beck joined President Monson and President Uchtdorf for a personal tour of Air Force One.
A few hours later (and after writing another controversial story on a completely different topic) I rushed up to Park City for the Bush Bash Barbecue. About 130 folks hung out a park near Romney's home for the "bash." Organizers insisted it was a "celebration" that the president was in town, not a bash Bush fest (despite the name of the event). One organizer reminded me that bash means party. But I didn't buy it.
The following is from one of my stories in today's paper:
But the majority of the folks on the lawn at Park City Park were anti-Bush, with some of them carrying signs protesting his presidency.
One attendee even went so far to say she wished somebody would "knock (Bush) off already."
Carol Silverman said she had a fantasy that Bush was assassinated, then Vice President Dick Cheney died of a heart attack, then former House Speaker Dennis Hastert died, clearing the path for Colin Powell to become president.
"With all the crazy people with guns, I can't believe nobody got to him," said Silverman, who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y., but owns a condo in Park City. "It's just too bad he's still president.
I logged 12 hours of work on Wednesday, and then had to get up at the crack of dawn to be at the airport for the president's departure. It was a lot of sitting around and waiting, but it was cool to be that close to the president and Air Force One. It's amazing the preparation done for every detail of his trip.
Here's my favorite guy, who used a feather duster to wipe down the president's limo minutes before he arrived:
Here's some pics of the president's entourage. The first is Marine One, Bush's official helicopter. The other pic is of these ginormous choppers that carried his staff and the national press pool.
Here's his motorcade pulling up Thursday morning, just before Bush got on Air Force One.
And finally, here is me, cheesing it up in front of that mammoth of an airplane.