SANDY — Bree Davey had hoped to be first in line to meet former President George W. Bush when he arrives Friday afternoon at Costco to sign copies of his new book.
But when Davey, 19, showed up at the warehouse store at 8 a.m. Thursday, she had to set up her blanket-covered folding chair behind a couple of local radio-station employees who planned to broadcast throughout the night.
Still, that didn't dampen the Salt Lake Community College paralegal student's enthusiasm for the opportunity to see "the best president in my lifetime," at least since she started paying attention to politics.
When Bush finally signs her copy of "Decision Points" after he arrives at 1 p.m. Friday, Davey said she'll tell him "how much I appreciate all he has done" and not to listen to his critics.
"He's only human," she said.
Not all Utahns share her attitude.
Rocky Anderson will once again lead a protest against Bush, this time for openly admitting in his book that he authorized the use of torture.
At noon Friday, the former Salt Lake City mayor and founder of a human rights advocacy group, will hold a "Rally for Accountability" at Pioneer Park.
Anderson drew national attention during Bush's 2005 visit to Salt Lake by leading more than 1,000 demonstrators in an anti-war protest also held in Pioneer Park.
He also has testified before Congress on what he believes were abuses of executive power and illegal conduct by the Bush administration. His actions against Bush over the years have frustrated many of the state's GOP faithful.
"Fine, let him protest down in Pioneer Park. I'm not sure Rocky's ever been as far south as Sandy," state GOP Chairman Dave Hansen said. "We're conditioned to know what Rocky's going to do."
Hansen will be escorting a few party activists into the book signing for a few moments with Bush as a "thank you" for their support. Bush will only be in Utah for the signing, set to last until 3 p.m., leaving no time for a party fundraiser.
"We're fine with that. We realize he's on a tight scheduled and they're doing their best to accommodate us," Hansen said.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert changed his own schedule to make sure he's in Salt Lake to greet Bush, his spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said. Herbert has been in San Diego at a Republican Governors Association meeting much of the week and will stop home briefly on his way to a National Governors Association meeting in Colorado Springs.
There were already two dozen Bush fans lined up just outside the Costco entrance by late afternoon Thursday despite a biting wind. Store manager Scott Christensen said the group would be allowed inside the heated entrance after the store closes, to spend the night.
Christensen expects a much bigger crowd by 8 a.m. Friday, when the store will hand out wristbands. They will be screened by the Secret Service later in the morning and sent to a secure waiting area.
Unlike former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's book-tour stop at the Salt Lake Costco in December 2009, Bush will be in an area of the store accessible only to customers who have gone through the screening process.
"The phone's been ringing off the hook. It's not every day you get to meet a president," Christensen said. "We've just been telling people it's first come, first served … just get there as early as possible."88 comments on this story
Arlene McClanahan and her daughter Mychaela, 7, hadn't planned on getting in line until midnight. But hearing from a clerk at the Provo Costco that others were already waiting, they hurried to Sandy.
McClanahan is getting a book signed for her husband, who is retired from the Army but continues to teach survival skills to soldiers. She's looking forward to thanking Bush for his service. "I know the decisions he made weren't easy," she said.
Her soft-spoken daughter is just excited about being able to tell friends about camping at the store overnight, and "that I went there and got to see the president and it was cool."