El Mirage Road in the West Valley became the center of political discourse Monday. More than 300 people, from one dressed in a chicken costume to amateur photographers hoping to glimpse President Bush’s motorcade, descended on the entrance to Pueblo El Mirage RV and Golf Resort.
Bush was in El Mirage to promote a new Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Protesters set up across the street with dozens of signs, outnumbering Bush supporters.
The person in the chicken suit waved a sign reading "Hey Chicken George Scared Out."
Cindy Maggs of Phoenix brandished one that read "Peace in/Bush out."
"There’s so many people dying in Iraq right now, and it’s so ridiculous," she said.
The protesters were supported by several pro-peace movements including Women in Black and Code Pink. Caryn Gardner, a Paradise Valley member of Code Pink, said she came to support peace and help others survive the heat.
"He can be out to talk about whatever he wants to talk about, but we are going to talk about war," Gardner said. "He needs to listen. I think he might be finally hearing us through Cindy (Sheehan)."
Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, has set up camp near Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, where hundreds of people and groups opposed to the war have joined her.
One of two signs James Tapia held Monday read, "Bush git you and your lies out of town."
Tapia said he chose to protest because of the new Medicare prescription plan.
"It’s way too expensive as it is and takes money out of the pocket of senior citizens," he said.
Toby Sanchez of Peoria was one of 30 to 40 people who set up early to protest the Iraq war.
"President Bush has a lot of blood on his hands," Sanchez said. "Instead of pandering to retirees in obscure areas of Arizona, he should address that we are losing lives in Iraq and losing lives in the Southern U.S. (from Hurricane Katrina)."
Kathleen Yardley of Phoenix said she wants to know why terrorism can’t be approached differently.
"I want him to know terrorism is a serious threat, but his approach is all wrong," Yardley said. "We need to work with other countries and address terrorism not by attacking Iraq and other countries not involved in 9/11, but by attacking people who attacked us."
Juanita Palmer of Pueblo El Mirage said she had the opportunity to sign up last week to see the president, but decided it wasn’t worth her time. The retiree also said she’s not interested in the new Medicare plan because it wouldn’t benefit her.
"A lot of people just want to say they saw President Bush, but I say ‘So what,’ because I’m real bitter about how the war has gone so far," she said. "I really respect the presidency, but not Bush."
Inside the resort that caters to retirees, most of the residents said they were eager to sign up to hear what the president had to say.
Bill Reilly of Pueblo El Mirage said he came to hear the president’s speech as soon as he knew residents were welcome.
"Someone described this as a once-in-a-lifetime event," Reilly said. "This is a once-in-10-million-lifetimes event when a president comes to a small community like this. "
He said he thinks the prescription drug plan will benefit many seniors.
"This benefit is great for seniors on a limited income," Reilly said. "For me it’s a wash. I am one of the few people who has a prescription drug benefit. It depends on whether my company keeps the benefit for retirees."
Supporters began chattering in anticipation as police motorcycles zoomed by before the president’s arrival.
"It’s very exciting, I feel like a kid," said Nancy Haupt of Waddell. "There are two things I am most grateful for: His support of the war and freedom and his faith."
Kevin Marti of Litchfield Park said the public does not focus on what Iraq and Afghanistan have gained because of America’s efforts.
"There are 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan that used to not be free and now they are," Marti said.
Bill Gates of Phoenix said he is a supporter of both the president’s domestic and foreign policy.