A late-night White House fireworks display in honor of Mexico incurs the wrath of President Bush's Washington neighbors.
It was supposed to be a celebration.
A private fireworks display above the White House during the first state dinner hosted by President Bush in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2001. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Boitano)
The smashing conclusion to President Bush's first formal state dinner was a dazzling fireworks display honoring America's neighbor to the South, Mexico, and its visiting leader, President Vicente Fox.
But the pyrotechnics set off an unexpected explosion of resentment among Bush's neighbors in Washington.
The White House rocket racket at 11 p.m. Wednesday night sent security guards from nearby office buildings running into the streets to find out what was happening and panicked passersby, including a crowd of young people leaving a nearby concert by the R &B group Maxwell.
"What is the president doing making so much noise this at night?" asked one young, female concert-goer. "Shouldn't he be sleeping so he can do his job?"
Many thought the sound from the initial burst of sparklers was gunfire or even a missile attack.
Biggest Bang For the Buck?
WMAL, the local ABC Radio station, was flooded with complaints, including one man who demanded to know what kind of "idiot" would light firecrackers on a school night, waking his small son.
A complaint of another kind was faxed around town by the Washington-based watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. It is demanding to know whether the estimated $175,000-$250,000 cost of what it called an "elaborate and unnecessary spectacle" was paid by taxpayers.
"We need to make sure that we're getting the biggest bang for our buck with our tax dollars," legislative director Jill Lancelot said in a statement, "and picking up the tab for a fireworks display at an essentially private event isn't the way to do that."
No word from the White House on whether fireworks will become a traditional feature of state diplomacy, or whether this controversy will just burn itself out.
Rebecca Cooper contributed to this report.