The Arkansan whose fight for a dazzling Christmas lights display once landed before the U.S. Supreme Court is retiring an illuminated flag honoring President Bush, but not because the president is a lame duck with low popularity.
"I'm still a 30 percenter," Jennings Osborne said Friday, explaining that he is among those holding a positive view of the president. At his Little Rock home, 100,000 lights that had formed an American flag and spelled out "God Bless America and George W." lay on the ground.
Osborne said he wanted to dismantle the 60-by-90-foot display two years ago because vandals kept cutting the wires. Only recently has he been able to hire someone to remove the display.
Although he acknowledged that a lot of people don't like Bush, he said he didn't know if the vandals were Bush critics.
"I figured it was just kids or something," he said.
Workers spent the week carefully dismantling the display, and Osborne plans to put it in storage at a friend's house. An American flag in lights, of the same size, will remain at his homes - he has three - on a busy Little Rock thoroughfare.
Osborne said he would resurrect the Bush flag later and might put up a flag in support of the next president, whomever that might be.
Osborne supports Arkansas' first lady Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president, but he also says he could get behind John McCain if McCain picks former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to be his running mate.
"Mike would really ignite the team," said Osborne, a long-time Huckabee booster. "Nothing against McCain but Bob Dole .... I don't know. He (McCain) has got to pick somebody to really, really help him."
Although "George is laid to rest," Osborne said, he was looking forward to cooking up some barbecue at the Bush ranch in Texas. He said the president promised him that, after this year, Osborne could prepare one of his outdoor feasts at Crawford. Besides light displays, Osborne likes to go all out with barbecue.
Osborne feeds hundreds at a time for free. He has cooked for Arkansas Razorback fans, for Bush on the president's visits to Arkansas, and for the Clintons. His 11 cookers, each weighing 4,100 pounds, can cook 6,000 pounds of meat at a time.
A lawsuit filed by Osborne's neighbors in the early 1990s targeted a 3.2 million-bulb Christmas display that backed up traffic on their already-busy Little Rock street. After the state Supreme Court upheld lower-court orders declaring the display a nuisance, Osborne went to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming freedom-of-religion rights. Justices rejected his appeal.
Osborne later erected Christmas light displays at Walt Disney World in Florida and Graceland in Memphis.