Contrary to what most local TV reporters erroneously told viewers last week, there were more than a "few" or "handful of" anti-Bush demonstrators downtown to protest his visit to Spokane last Thursday. I saw hundreds of them. In fact, I'd say the anti-Bush crowd far outnumbered his supporters -- by a ratio of at least 4 to 1.
If I hadn't seen them with my own eyes, I would have guessed -- from their coverage alone -- that they news teams were stationed somewhere other than right across from the Convention Center, where Bush's $1,000 a plate fundraising dinner was being held. KXLY did the best job, but all the stations seemed too starstruck by Air Force One to notice the outpouring of anger. As usual, they seemed to find the nuttiest-looking protestor to interview.
Why was local media so easy to manipulate into making the president's trip just the kind of pro-GOP bonanza they had hoped for? The cynic in me says it's because these guys pay their salaries. Just guess what all that money raised is going to be spent on? The $10,000 checks for a photo with the prez, and the $1,000 plates of meatballs on a toothpick? TV ads! That's right, raising money is all about buying time on TV -- in Rep. George Nethercutt's case, most will be spent in the Seattle area, but you get the point. TV stations enjoy enormous windfalls every four years -- and in return they give us this kind of watered-down coverage? I believe these news organizations are capable of good work, but they failed this time. It's going to be a long election season; maybe they can do better next time.
But back to the protest. While Bush supporters relied on the flag and dull, prefabricated campaign signs, the anti-Bush demonstrators demonstrated their creativity with handmade signs that were both funny and thought-provoking. "It's nuclear not nucular you idiot." "WMDs? Look behind a Bush!" And "You're Fired!" (OK, that one was mine.)
The highly entertaining Spokane Radical Cheerleaders were also on hand with cheers that drew thunderous crowd response. "When we say 'Bush,' you say 'out!'" "BUSH!" "OUT!" When we say 'pro,' you say 'choice!'" "PRO!" "CHOICE!"
One Bush supporter was even overheard to say, "I gotta admit, the liberals have better signs."
An elderly Bush supporter was so incensed by a sign held by a young man ("Jesus was a Socialist") that she told him that Jesus would want him dead. When the young man politely informed her that Jesus was about love and not murder, one of the elderly woman's companions turned and chided him, "Why don't you just leave it alone?"
Another Bush supporter tried to correct a protester for the way he had spelled the word "regime" on his "Regime Change" sign. Turns out, the protester had correctly spelled "regime." Maybe mangling the language is trickling down.
The photos on these pages were taken by people who were actually there and had their eyes open.
Ted S. McGregor Jr. contributed to this commentary.