George W. Bush's River Oaks Book Signing: In The Belly Of The Beast

By 5 a.m., more than 100 people were already camped outside the Barnes & Noble in River Oaks for a chance to spend a few brief seconds with "The Decider," former President George W. Bush. Bush is touring bookstores around the country to sign copies of his new memoir, Decision Points in which he writes about important issues such as how Kayne West hurt his feelings after that big storm down on the Gulf Coast.

The event was sold out but that didn't stop rubberneckers from stationing themselves outside the Starbucks across West Gray to enjoy the media-and-rich-white-people circus.

We'd read online that some bookstores were moving Bush's book to the crime or fantasy sections of their stacks but at B&N everything was strictly status quo. A few members of Code Pink, one of the protest groups leading the book-switching movement, showed up to protest the signing.

By the time the sun was rising the crowd had doubled. Bookstore officials opened the doors before 8 a.m. and the signing started early in an attempt to accommodate those looking to spend a few fleeting moments with the younger Bush. One bookstore employee said the store, which had intended to end the event 10:30 a.m., would keep the lines going until every book was signed.

The bookstore had been playing chipper 1960s soul music and Motown while people sat in lines waiting Bush's arrival. When he finally showed, the crowd burst into applause and the music on the intercom suddenly switched, we kid you not, to Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler." Subtle.

Code Pink, the protest group who opposes the war in Iraq, made a pitiful showing of about seven people compared to the mass of Bush supporters. They held up signs and yelled things like "You can read that book of torture to your children as they go to bed tonight!" A protester with Revolution Newspaper was also present. A man sat at a table outside Starbucks with a roll of yellow caution tape and a ghillie suit draped over his chair and but did not participate in the protest, which started around 8:45 a.m., long after much of the booksigning crowd had moved inside.

Lines weaved in an out through the stacks, and anyone hoping for a personal message from the Prez was out of luck. The book you spent cash-money on was not necessarily the book that you were going to leave with. Bookstore employees and Secret Service personnel kept the signing going with machine-like efficiency so that conversation with the man, who shook hands and referred to people as "Buddy," was brief.

Across the street at one of the corner's three Starbucks locations baristas were also working assembly-line style. Members of the crowd had been flooding the coffee shop since it opened at 5 a.m. to fortify against the cold, early morning. One barista said his manager expected more than 1,000 people in the store.

Click to the next page for a few more photos, and be sure to check out our slideshow of the event.

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