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Local Republicans Tough Crowd for Bush

President Bush faced a tough crowd last night -- San Diego Republicans. The GOP sponsored a gathering for the president's State of the Union speech. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps was there.

Local Republicans Tough Crowd for Bush

President Bush faced a tough crowd last night  -- San Diego Republicans. The GOP sponsored a gathering for the president's State of the Union speech. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps was there.

After the president's speech, I met four people over pizza and beer at the Rock Bottom Brewery in La Jolla. Here's what they have in common: They're all Republicans in San Diego. That's about it.

Sevdy: I think it was upbeat. I think it was encouraging.

Tristan Sevdy liked the president's speech.

Sevdy: I think it was right on target. And he certainly doesn't look like a lame duck. He looks like the leader that he is.

Sevdy is an airline pilot who used to fly fighter jets in the Air Force. He says the president made a strong case for staying in Iraq.

Sevdy: I'm behind the president. I happen to agree with sending more troops to the center of mass of our enemies. Take the fight to them. We're in this. We need to carry on until the end. We have got to go to the things that …

He pulls out a Ronald Reagan keychain.

Sevdy: His guy, you’ve got to remember, he stuck to his conservative principles and without firing a shot, brought down monolithic, Soviet Communism. 

Sevdy says President Bush's address carried that same kind of hope. Here's when Naomi Barlev butts in.

Barlev: Not-encouraged. I was not encouraged.  

Barlev is a real estate broker who lives downtown. She says she is a Republican and George Bush isn't.

Barlev: You know what, it sounded good if I was uneducated. I know politics and I know economics and I don't just listen to sound bites. All of the politicians that are in office in the last 15 to 20 years have got to step down. They're all criminals.

Sevdy: What was encouraging was President Bush was talking about those sorts of things, with respect to the earmarks, to shine the light of day on all these earmarks that get attached to these bills. That's a step in the right direction.

Barlev: It's not a step It's like a -- I'll give them this -- a carrot -- that's what it was. I saw the whole speech, and if there's anything good in that speech, it was a carrot. Every time I saw something that I would believe in, it was a carrot for his staunch supporters. I don't think he cares about his strongest supporters. I really don't.

The president talked about traditionally un-Republican things: government healthcare, global warming, and a somewhat lenient immigration policy.

More: The Republican party has drifted to the left under the guise of neo-conservatism.

This is Jim More: Catholic, Republican, and detached from his party.

More: So you have the Reagan Republicans, who believe in what's called basic or true conservatism, which is smaller government, personal responsibility, strong military, and a border and border laws that are enforced. Neo-conservatism, on the other hand, is really just liberalism that's guised as Republicanism. With so many Republicans now like Brian Bilbray last week -- he is a Catholic in this county, and he voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research. The Republican party has a very strong plank in the sanctity of human life. So you see the Republican ranks still believe in those basic fundamental values and yet our Republican leaders, from Governor Schwarzenegger on down, don't seemingly share those values.

More reluctantly agrees he's disappointed in the president. He thinks the war in Iraq is a disaster and the troops are stretched too thin. But his friend Anthony Porrello sees it completely differently.

Porrello: I 'm really glad that the president understands what we're facing. I see this conflict in Iraq as a skirmish in a larger war. The ideas that some of these Democrats have of pulling is absolute insanity. By criticizing our commander in chief during a war, they are sympathizing with the enemy. They are -- you know -- there are people -- we have soldiers that are being killed because the enemy is feeling encouragement.

Now Jim More is really gritting his teeth.

More: Again, I'm one of the Republican party, again, with that Sam Brownback wing, which is growing, being in opposition to the war, because, you know, basically they are doing in Islam, in, pardon me, in Iraq exactly what they are taught to do by their simple interpretation -- read literally, word for word -- from the Koran, which is - if you cannot convert the infidel, you must kill them. We don't have a military solution.

Porrello: As far as I'm concerned we're not pulling out of Iraq and I think the president made it clear that we're going to win. The United States is not going to repeat another Vietnam.

So here's the final score: Two points for the Doubting Thomas brigade, two points for the "I Heart W" squad -- all San Diego Republicans. They love their party and love their country. Perhaps that's why they disagree so much. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.