Bush visits Napa for a fundraiser

July 17, 2008 11:51:16 PM PDT
President Bush's Northern California visit started with fire and ended with fundraising. He left Travis Air Force on Thursday night bound for Tucson, Arizona, where he's campaigning for a Republican congressional candidate in the morning.

The president's visit began in Redding with an aerial survey of wildfire damage. His next stop was in Saint Helena for a Republican Party fundraiser at a private home.

It was an exercise in free speech as some spectators got a little testy trying to make their case for or against President George W. Bush. Regardless, the president never heard it as his motorcade whisked by on the way to a big dollar political fundraiser.

The president's visit was a thrill for most of the people who lined Highway 29, but not for everybody. The appearance of President Bush and his motorcade led to some verbal sparring among a few spectators.

"Look for the safety of the state, our forests and our people. That's what the man is here to help us with," said Martin Bennett, a Bush supporter.

"Oh, you're joking. He's here to raise money for the Republican Party paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. How much are these people getting paid? " yelled Hughes Ryan, a Bush opponent.

There was a lot of money in the air, high above the Napa Valley where the press and public were kept at a distance. President Bush was the guest of honor at the estate of Bill Harlan, local vintner and owner of the high-end Meadowood Resort.

A little over a hundred guests raised an estimated $850,000 for the Republican Party and Presidential candidate John McCain.

Earlier in the day, the president boarded a helicopter with the governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) from California and toured the fire zone in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Redding. A lightning-sparked fire there has been burning for nearly a month.

The president thanked the thousands of men and women working day and night, paying a special visit to a group of smoke jumpers, the elite corps that parachutes into the most dangerous hot spots. President Bush promised the federal government would help do its best to help California.

"I always come to make sure the Federal Government is coordinating closely with the State Government. I know Governor Schwarzenegger well enough to say if weren't, he'd let me know," said President Bush.

"When you hear there are 2,000 fires at one given time, that's a little too much, even for us and for all the great firefighters. We need the assistance and help and the Federal Government came in very quickly. There was quick reaction," said Governor Schwarzenegger (R) of California.

And it was a quick exit by President Bush who spent just a little more than two hours raising quick money in the heart of wine country.

FEMA has committed more than $150 million to help California pay for this massive undertaking. The governor says at this point 80 percent of the Federal Government's firefighting resources are hard at work here in California.


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