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Jon Caldara on today's Barack Obama protest

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In addition to buying a full-page ad needling President Barack Obama, who's in town today to sign a $787 billion economic-stimulus bill, Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams is also taking part in a protest at the Colorado State Capitol co-starring a number of big names in local conservative circles: Jim Pfaff, state director of Americans for Prosperity; State Senator Josh Penry; Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin, who relocated to Colorado Springs earlier this year (more about that later); and, naturally, the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara (pictured), whose taste for showmanship will be on display throughout the presentation.

"We're not really the protest type, being as we bathe every day," Caldara riffs. "But this bill is on such a gargantuan scale, and not only is it putting our kids into debt, but it's also centralizing so much power in Washington in different areas, from health care to education. We wanted to let the record books show that at least some people thought this was a bad idea."

According to Caldara, "We wanted to have the rally closer to where Obama is putting our children into debt" -- meaning the Museum of Nature & Science -- "but we couldn't get a permit. And we didn't think we'd be able to get that close to the big man himself. But everything's come together really well. We'll have a bunch of four-foot-long checks for people to sign over to the government, at $30,000 each. That's their family's share of the stimulus bill."

So why didn't Caldara and company stage a similar event when the $700 billion Troubled Assets and Relief Program, known as TARP, was inked last October? Could it have anything to do with the fact that it was a Republican, George W. Bush, who did the signing? "We had a little bit more time to think about this one," Caldara says a bit hesitantly before picking up steam. "Not that I was a big fan of the TARP bill. I certainly wasn't, and spoke out strongly against it. But this one opens up the door to a whole bunch of other stuff. It's much different. The TARP bill was only about trying to get some liquidity back into the credit market."

Besides, it was $87 billion less expensive. Talk about a bargain.

Fortunately, Caldara mixes his messages with humor -- always his secret weapon. He says that Malkin, who moved to Colorado Springs late last fall (and spoke at the Independence Institute's annual Founders Night dinner in November), became a resident of that particular city because "she needed to be closer to me. She's a little sensitive about it, but I wanted you to hear it from me first." Later, he looks for yuks in the contrast between his buttoned-down reputation and his forthcoming participation in rabble-rousing. For instance:

"If someone asked me, 'What's the difference between you guys doing a protest and liberals doing a protest?,' I'd say, 'We'll be the only protest with valet parking and a coat-and-tie requirement."

Consider yourselves warned.

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