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Idaho Was Fine Without Bush, Thank You
There goes the neighborhood: Donnelly greets Bush with trepidation
By CHRISTOPHER SMITH / Associated Press
The helicopter carrying George Bush touched down Monday on a brand-new, bright green golf course at Tamarack Resort as the president began his two-day Idaho vacation. A small crowd waved flags and cheered, but the town's local dignitary was not among the welcoming committee.
"We've got people that are actually planning to move because of what's happening here," said Donnelly Mayor George Dorris. "The president coming here, now the guy who works as a burger flipper in Denver and who never had any desire to come up here is going to want to see what brought the president here."
The arrival of the presidential entourage in the community that Idaho guide book author Cort Conley once described as "quiet as a wooden Indian" was a watershed event for the local tourism industry. But it's one that Dorris and some other longtime residents say they saw coming when the tony resort opened last December and began running national ads touting the recreation and real estate opportunities in the town of 132 people.
"We're used to the peace and quiet and this will just ruin it," said Nancy Lowman. She and her husband Larry serve as hosts of the Poison Creek Campground, in front of the resort on the shore of Lake Cascade. "It's nice he's come to visit, but for a lot of us, it's still sad."
The president and his wife Laura touched down on the resort's golf course aboard the presidential helicopter Marine One at 2:10 p.m., joined by Idaho Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and his wife Patricia. Kempthorne, who has been a vocal booster of Tamarack, received a $2,500 donation from the resort's developers to help retire his 2002 campaign debt. He also owns property in the project.
Developers have spent an estimated $200 million on the resort and expect the final cost will be $1.5 billion when the 2,000 homes, condominiums, golf course, ski area and marina are complete.
"That resort has just made real estate crazy here," said Barb Johnson, a retired Boise school teacher who has owned a home across the lake from Tamarack since 1972. "It's changed things very quickly, but at the same time you have to say, how often does the president drop into your back yard?"
Bush was expected to go mountain biking at the resort — which is closed to the public during his visit — and entertain members of Idaho's congressional delegation at a private dinner before returning to the Boise area Wednesday to give a speech to members of the military and their families about the war on terror.
The president's first visit to Idaho since his 2000 election began when Air Force One landed at Gowen Field at the Boise Airport after Bush spoke to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City. Kempthorne was Bush's guest at the Utah appearance and flew with the president to Idaho.
"They must have changed the immigration laws here in Utah, because they allowed the Idaho governor to come across the border," Bush joked during his Salt Lake City appearance. He made no public remarks Monday in Idaho, waving to a small crowd as he and the first lady stepped off Air Force One and quickly transferred with the Kempthornes to the waiting helicopter.
Thousands of war protesters rallied against Bush in Utah. In Donnelly, activists planned a small peace vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan, the mother who sought to meet with the president in Texas to discuss her son's death in Iraq. On Tuesday evening, an anti-war rally was planned by the Idaho Peace Coalition near the Idaho Capitol.
About 30 people stood on picnic tables, clapped and waved American flags Monday afternoon in the Poison Creek Campground as the four military helicopters carrying Bush, his staff and the traveling White House press corps thundered over Cascade Lake to a special landing zone created on the yet-to-be-opened fairways at Tamarack.
Lisa Berry wept while hugging her three young daughters as the airborne entourage landed.
"We wouldn't miss this for the world," she said after driving from Eagle, a Boise suburb about 90 miles away, to witness the president's arrival. "He's the leader of our country."
Said Delpha Bush of Boise: "No matter what your political stripes are, I just really love my country and he's the president."