Bush expresses support for Simon, spurs protest in California

LBy Robert Salonga
Daily Bruin
University of California at Los Angeles

lOS ANGELES (U-WIRE) – While California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon egged on President Bush to stick with him during his campaign, demonstrators collected outside the Regency Club on Saturday Aug. 24 to protest them both.

Arriving at Santa Monica Airport, Bush traveled to Westwood on the tail end of a 24-hour-long statewide trek to raise funds for the beleaguered Simon — who is falling behind in both campaign funds and voter opinion to his Democratic counterpart, Gov. Gray Davis.

The president made two public appearances and attended three private fundraisers during his stint in California.

He was careful not to mention Simon in the public outings, but in the limited press coverage of the Regency Club Bush opened up.

“I stand by his side because I know that you can do better in California,” Bush said.

With Simon not always by his side, Bush canvassed the state, with previous stops in Dana Point, Santa Ana and Stockton. After appearing in Westwood he boarded a plane to New Mexico, and in the end his appearances helped to raise $2.6 million for the Simon campaign.

Yet Bush has been a less-than-steadfast Simon supporter. During the state Republican primary earlier this year the president supported former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan as his choice for the governor’s race.

Simon responded to the media claims Bush is keeping him at an “arm’s length.” Incidentally, Bush refrained from making references to his new focus on corporate responsibility.

“If keeping me at an arm’s length really means flying several thousand miles out here to campaign for us over two days, and now you’ve done five events with us, could please keep me at an arm’s length for the balance of the campaign?” Simon said.

The sentiment outside the fundraisers had significantly less humor. Sporting signs, props and costumes, upwards of 500 protesters surrounded the intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards.

Traffic was closed off for one block north and one block south of Wilshire, and police kept close watch over the crowd. Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Mike Hillmann said there were no incidents of disorder.

But the morning was not lacking activity: people could be seen in jail costumes and rubber Bush masks. Tribal dancers kept the morning air pulsing with drum beats.

The cause was strong enough to temporarily resolve a rivalry arguably more charged than partisan politics: Bruins and Trojans.

“We can’t let the president come to town without presenting a little opposition,” said Marc Korman, a member of the University of Southern California Democrats and fourth-year history student.

Many used the event as an opportunity to protest Bush’s tactics in the war on terrorism, particularly the bombing in Afghanistan and seemingly-imminent invasion of Iraq.

“We’re here to let Bush know that people all over this nation are against this war,” said fifth-year communication studies student Luke Patterson.

Some showed their disapproval of Simon in more creative ways. Clad in horizontal black and white stripes, Clark Lee donned a “Simon Fraud” sign and took his place among the protesters.

“Bill Simon is not the guy we want in California,” said Lee, who is regional director of the College Democrats of America and student at Claremont McKenna College.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.