Brian Baird at Fort Vancouver High School
Phil, an older man with wavy hair and background as a boat captain, had known Representative Brian Baird for years; he was a long-time friend and supporter, and ordinarily a question from him at a Baird town hall would be friendly and supportive.
"You've done some amazing good work," he said, looking downward across the Fort Vancouver High auditorium, down toward the stage where Baird sat, looking up, a microphone in hand. "That being said, " Phil continued, "you've broken my heart."
When he paused, Baird replied, "I understand your broken heart. It was not an easy decision for me . . ." He paused. "And knowing all you folks would be mad." He suggested that coming to this meeting wasn't easy, either. But he was convinced he was right: "If you could meet with the people I've met in the region, maybe your heart will be less broken . . ."
No sale. Phil shot back that Baird had become the "poster boy" for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and "I don't like that at all."
"I don't like it, either," Baird said. (Both his talk and Q & A were peppered with zingers at the administration.)
Phil's arm shot out, his finger pointing angrily at Baird: "My friend, you have screwed up, and you have to change course." At that, the crowd erupted, cheering Phil . . .
And this was a crowd, to a big extent, of Baird's best in-district political friends. Or, those who used to be his friends. A few speakers before Phil, a woman who was a long-time supporter dressed him down by reminding him, "We are the ones who hit the ground to get you elected. . . . We were so so proud of you and the work you did." Now, she said: "I cannot believe your arrogance, Mr. Baird."
The audience atmosphere was a little Pentacostal: Cries of "impeach Bush" or "end the war" and similar calls punctuated questions, answers and everything else. In the two hours we were there, not one questioner - out of perhaps 20 - expressed anything other than disgust and outrage at Baird's new take on Iraq. To judge from audience reaction, a portion of the crowd of perhaps 400 to 500 (those that were inside - the room was filled solid and others couldn't get in) supported him, but that portion was surely less than 10%.
Shouted one person, midway through: "You think you're going to be re-elected?"
Baird: "It doesn't matter to me." Maybe, in the face of all that, it didn't.