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Bush leaves speech audience feeling 'star-struck'

CENTRAL POINT ' As they waited for President George W. Bush to begin his speech, Chris and Jill Harris cooed at their 10-month-old baby and bounced her on their knees in a vain attempt to keep her from emitting a squeaky wail.

But they didn't once think about not bringing Jayne.

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? — ? — ? — ? — — — — She may not remember it, but she'll see pictures of her first presidential experience, said Chris Harris, of Yreka, Calif. I would have given her my ticket so she could be here if they hadn't let all of us in.

Republicans gave away 5,000 tickets to see Bush at Compton Area at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. They stood in a long, winding line, some for hours, to get into the arena and then braved the stifling air inside the cavernous building to hear their nation's leader.

I think it's one of the most exciting days for Republicans in Oregon, especially tiny little Southern Oregon, said Donna Cain, a Rogue River resident who serves as the secretary for the Oregon Republican Party.

A select few met with the president before he spoke. One was County Commissioner Jack Walker. Walker didn't get a chance to discuss politics, but he was still bowled over.

I just met him and thanked him for coming to Southern Oregon, Walker said. He has a great, sparkling personality. I was really more impressed than I thought I'd be. I'm not normally star-struck, but this was something.

And when the president went onstage in his khakis and buttoned-down shirt, the crowd leapt to its feet and screamed. Bush gave a little shrug and thanked them.

It was one of many standing ovations Bush received.

Outside the arena, protesters were sequestered in a parking lot. Some plugged a boom box into an electrical outlet on a telephone pole and listened to the speech. Instead of cheering, though, they groaned.

There was a feeling he was mischaracterizating events that were happening in Southern Oregon, said Dominick DellaSala, forest ecologist and director of Klamath Siskiyou Regional Program of World Wildlife Fund.

Inside, it was nothing but praise and adoration. After his speech, Bush gave a thumbs-up to the crowd and then shook hands with those at the front of the arena.

I enjoyed being here and appreciate your service, Bush said as he grabbed Jay Seth Dyal's hand. Dyal, a 17-year-old airman first class, wore his crisp blue Civil Air Patrol uniform to the event.

The Medford teen said he's tempted to frame his hand.

He's a wonderful man who believes in God, Dyal said. He showed the people he loves them, and he cares about us.

As he hurried out of the building to catch a plane for a presidential fund-raising event in Portland, Oregon Republican Chairman Perry Atkinson predicted that the policies Bush promoted would have a huge impact on the state's economy and industry.

God bless him for coming here, Atkinson said.

Jeff Barker, a Klamath Falls resident who works at a resort, was one of the last to trickle out of the arena.

I thought it was great, he said. It's about time common sense entered into the political arena, and I think President Bush just did that.