August 21, 2008
On Thursday, there was a rolling anti-Bush museum in Monument Valley Park, a hot air balloon attacking Senate candidate Mark Udall in Memorial Park and an Austrian film crew shooting a mockumentary about a European candidate for president of the United States outside King's Chef Diner downtown.
When people call the preelection months "silly season," this is what they're talking about. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Denver, but the circus surrounding the convention is already spilling over into Colorado Springs.
"It's a good time to get out there and talk to people about the issues," said Julie Blust, spokeswoman for Americans United For Change, the group that sponsored the biodieselpowered bus wrapped with a giant photo of President Bush and the logo "The Bush Legacy: Economy in Crisis, Endless Iraq War, Healthcare's a Mess, Record Gas Prices."
The bus is on a nationwide tour, passing through Colorado Springs on its way to the convention.
"The idea came about from a brainstorming session: What is Bush's legacy going to be?" Blust said. "How do we get history to look at him the way it should?"
Inside, a timeline of Hurricane Katrina and charts of rising gas prices and the falling value of the dollar wrap around the walls and along the floor. A "Bush & Cheney Oil Company" gas pump sits in the back. Fifty to 60 people visited the bus during its two-hour stay, Blust said.
Outlandish? Perhaps. But the 70-foot-tall hot air balloon Americans For Prosperity brought to Memorial Park gave the bus a run for its money. The free-market group said the balloon was a way to raise support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on the coasts and oppose what it calls global warming extremists such as Al Gore and Mark Udall. The balloon bore a sign reading, "Tell Udall: Energy Taxes Hurt Families and Kill Jobs."
Americans For Prosperity offered free rides to go with its political message Thursday evening before moving on to Grand Junction.
"There is a flight restriction during the convention itself, otherwise we'd be flying right over Invesco during Al Gore's speech," said Annie Patnaude, spokeswoman for the group.
For sheer head-scratching oddity, however, it was hard to beat the van sporting the logo "Europe for President" parked downtown.
The mockumentary project, which will run on German and Austrian television in November, supposes that a European campaign manager recruits an American expatriate in Paris to run for president and bring European values to the United States - including international cooperation, universal health care and federal programs to promote good taste and soccer.
Danish director Thomas Altheimer and a small crew are accompanying their candidate, "Hannah Jefferson," on a campaign tour culminating at the Democratic convention. They plan to film in Colorado Springs today as well.
"It's fiction, but it's also real in the sense that I think you can really pull these things off if you're in the right place at the right time," Altheimer said. "I just think in America the camps are so entrenched there is no communication going on. I'm thinking there needs to be some third position."
New York actress Carol Jacobanis, who plays Jefferson, said being a fake candidate talking to real people about their issues is actually pretty rewarding.
"People talk to you differently," she said. "They get a really vested, impassioned interest in conveying their deepest points of view to you. I love that."
Unlike the Bush bus and the Udall balloon, Altheimer and his crew have press credentials for the convention and plan to take their fight, and their film, to the convention floor.
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Some of the groups that visit Colorado Springs on Thursday on the way to the Democratic National Convention and the issues they are promoting:
Americans United For Change
"Bush Legacy Bus" attacking President Bush's legacy. americansunitedforchange.org
Americans For Prosperity
"Hot Air Tour" promoting oil exploration and attacking global warming extremists, costofhotair.com
Europe For President
Running a (fictional) American expatriate for president to bring European values to the U.S., europe2008.org