After seeing Mike Huckabee this morning, I was fired up to go see the First Black President (Bill Clinton), whose wife might actually lose the the presidency to the Second Black President (Barack Obama). Sure, Huckabee is a great speaker, but Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton. If you saw Mike Huckabee in a Denny’s, you’d say to yourself “hey, there’s Mike Huckabee,” and go on eating your huevos rancheros. Bill Clinton is the former leader of the free world – for 8 years, from what I understand.
I was interested in seeing how rough Clinton would get with Obama. In Wisconsin, Obama isn’t a candidate – Obama is a way of life. It’s clear Wisconsin is getting the South Carolina treatment from the Clintons – Hillary looks ahead to more favorable states, while Bill stays behind and takes shots at The Chosen One.
This morning, I told my 4-year old daughter (who first endorsed Obama, then Clinton, now McCain) that I was going to see Hillary’s husband. I then threw in, as an afterthought, “oh yeah, he used to be president, too.” Then I realized how crazy that must sound to a 4-year old. She probably thinks there’s a pool of, like, three people that are allowed to run for president. It doesn’t help that Hillary’s husband was sandwiched by a father and son. Nuts.
Clinton’s speech was held in a barn. Literally. The Stock Pavilion on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a campus building where livestock shows are held. When I showed up at 12:30 (show time was 1:30, so I thought I’d get there early so I didn’t get Obama’d), there were probably 50 to 100 people in line. It became clear to me, however, that the wait to get in was going to be outside in the 25 degree weather. I thought I’d tough it out, just to get a real sense of what attending one of these events is for the regular folk. I mean, any press person can hop from event to event – it takes determination to stick it out in freezing cold weather.
In front of me in line was a group of giggling college girls, not all of them Clinton supporters. One of them actually had a Barack Obama ringtone on her phone. When she got a call, her phone boomed, “YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!” The girls struck up an interesting political conversation. One said she thought McCain was creepy, and didn’t like him “because he’d probably die.” She said she might vote for him if he picked Condoleezza Rice as his running mate. Another girl, excited to see Bill Clinton, said “what if I get to touch him?” No joke really necessary there.
The wait went on and on, as did the freezing cold. After about 45 minutes, I felt like the muscles in my legs had the texture of beef jerky. The line grew to about 100 yards long, although dozens of people cut in line right up to the front. These people were easy to spot – they’d start out in the street, sizing up the line. They would then flip open their cell phone and pretend to call someone at the front of the line. Finally, they would start waving to their supposed “friend,” and begin working their way through the crowd. At least 20 people pulled the same maneuver, causing a bit of friction among the people who had been freezing there for an hour.
As we waited in line outside, several Hillary volunteers began canvassing the crowd with clipboards to get people to “sign in.” They implied that you had to sign up to get in to the event, which I knew was complete nonsense. Yet it seemed that hundreds of people complied, so best of luck to them getting off that mailing list.
Finally, the Clinton campaign provided some much-needed hope. A front door flew open, and with it the smell of cow manure from the pavilion. This was the most welcome cow manure smell ever – but also likely served as a harbinger for the speech we were about to hear inside. (I’ll be here all week, folks.)
As I walked in the door and got patted down, I noticed that the sign up tables were being staffed primarily by attractive, thin, well-dressed young women. I felt ashamed of myself for immediately assuming they were from out of town. One of them slapped a Hillary sticker on my chest, which I didn’t necessarily mind. I’m probably third in line to being the next Hillary Clinton campaign manager, anyway. When in the Stock Pavilion, do as the cows do, as they say…
Once inside, I got a good look at the almost-empty pavilion. I was told it seats about 2,000 people. The gray, concrete seats form a disinviting bowl around the livestock area. I guess if your clientele is mainly livestock, there’s really no need to go for aesthetic charm in a barn. The floor, naturally, is all dirt. The aluminum ceiling is painted black, with large metal beams holding it up. The press area is roped off in the middle of the dirt area, and ten cameras are already set up on a large platform.
As the people file in, it is clear that one of the most important jobs for Hillary’s staff is to get the right people behind the podium, in camera range. It appears that one of the best strategies for placement behind Clinton is to be in a group wearing similarly-colored t-shirts. AFSCME union workers wearing their signature green shirts were all herded up to the front. The red t-shirt wearing “non-partisan” AARP of Wisconsin members were seated to the lower right behind the podium. I’m 100% sure I could start a group demanding thicker and fuller mustaches, get some friends to wear the same purple t-shirt, and we’d be plopped right behind the podium at the next Hillary event. Viva la Mustache!
Aside from the t-shirt wearers, there appears to be a hierarchy of who gets to be human wallpaper at these events. The pecking order of who gets to sit up front behind the podium for Democratic events seems to be: 1. Veteran wearing a hat; 2. Anyone in a wheelchair; 3. People wearing similarly-colored t-shirts; 4. Anyone wearing some kind of ethnic clothing.
With regard to #4: A young man wearing a Puerto Rico shirt was shuffled up to the front by one of Hillary’s staffers. As a test, I think people should start showing up to these events in over-the-top ethnic attire. You’d watch one of Bill Clinton’s speeches and see an Italian guy with a big curly mustache flipping a pizza, some people wearing lederhosen gulping beer, and some samurai warriors eating egg rolls.
Up in the crowd, a cute girl wearing a tight t-shirt is holding a heart-shaped sign that says “BILL, WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE?” This is EXACTLY what Clinton needs at one of his rallies. This would be like an Obama supporter showing up at an Obama rally with a sign that said “Hey, Barack – WANNA DO SOME BLOW?”
Some of the young crowd members around me start to chatter about politics. One Hillary supporter actually says he doesn’t mind McCain because he thinks given McCain’s POW experience, that he won’t rush the U.S. into war – since he knows first-hand the toll it takes on soldiers. I almost had to pinch myself to see if I actually was at a political rally. Certainly the last place you expected to hear a level-headed comment. It’s like seeing the Pope in a strip club.
The girl behind me said she was going to call her sister and brag, because her sister is a huge Bill Clinton fan. In fact, she’s such a fan, her sister named her cat “Clinton.” Again, the jokes write themselves.
Finally, some unidentified woman got up on stage to remind us that in addition to today being Valentine’s Day, tomorrow is a day that’s equally as important – Susan B. Anthony’s birthday! If I now have to go buy my wife some Susan B. Anthony candy and flowers, me and that broad are going to fight.
She went on to say how much Hillary had fought for “kids’ issues.” I started wondering what these “kids’ issues” might be. The biggest issue my son seems to have is not being able to get Mr. Potato Head’s nose on straight. If Hillary can come over and do that for him, she might get his vote. She also remarked how successful Hillary has been at “strengthening women.” Presumably, this was in Hillary’s brief career as a personal trainer.
This woman, whose name I will likely never know, said that while George W. Bush had promised to “invest” in renewable fuels, Hillary had promised to “re-invest” in renewable fuels. So for those of you at home who need to update your liberal language dictionaries, the order of commitment to expanded government programs is now:
On came Congresswoman Hilda Solis of California, who was supposed to impress us because… she came all the way from California! This point is made about five times during the speeches. But I can guarantee no part of Hilda Solis’ trip to Wisconsin was as unpleasant as the time I just spent waiting outside the pavilion. The crowd remains unimpressed, and provides milquetoast applause.
Solis recalled a time long ago in 1992, when Hillary Clinton came to her Congressional district to help her win her first election. “I said to myself then,” said Solis, “that this woman was going somewhere.” Of course, Hillary was about to become the first lady, as her husband was running for President. Thanks, Nostradamus.
Solis pushed the fact that Hillary is going to fight “climate change.” It was wise of her not to say Hillary’s going to fight “global warming” to a crowd that had just spent freezing their asses off for more than an hour outside. “Climate change” lets Democrats claim that any time the needle moves, something’s wrong.
Finally, Solis took a shot at “Milwaukee right wing radio,” saying that “some host” told people the Clinton event in Waukesha was postponed. Without knowing what had happened, I immediately knew who she was talking about, and how likely her charge was to be completely made up. As it turns out, it was.
Before Solis exited, she demanded a “big round of applause for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk!” The crowd immediately groaned, and Falk, over on the side of the podium, cracked a big smile. “…and President Bill Clinton!” added Solis. The crowd stood and cheered their rock star.
Falk approached the podium, and began talking about Hillary. She said Hillary Clinton was the “first presidential candidate to have a plan for the economy,” which made me chuckle. As if Barack Obama was sitting around a month ago, turned to his advisors and said “Hillary keeps talking about ‘the economy.’ What’s all that ‘economy’ talk about?”
Falk introduces Bill Clinton, who cuts a radiant figure on stage. He is thin, tan, and appears energetic. He launches into a criticism of Republicans’ health care policies. “Raise your hand if you know someone who doesn’t have health care,” he implores the crowd. Nearly everyone does. He reiterates his support for universal health care. Later, he will likely be surprised to realize that he was actually President for 8 years, and never enacted universal health care. No need to point that out now, though – he’s on a roll.
Knowing he has to be extremely subtle in his attacks against Obama, Clinton gingerly rolls out the newest talking point. “Solutions are better than speeches,” he says, intimating that while Obama is a great speaker, he’s short on accomplishments. Much of his talk focuses on this point. (The full speech will likely be available on the internet soon, so there’s no need to go into great detail about its content.)
Clinton’s speech rambles on for a while, and the crowd begins to lose a little air. The guy behind the podium who was inexplicably waving a copy of Clinton’s autobiography in the air for the first 20 minutes of the speech has ceased. Clinton says Hillary is going to help the “victims” of the subprime lending crisis. He says one of his wife’s basic tenets is that we should make the world better “for our grandchildren.” Finally, someone has the guts to look out for the grandkids. He tries to peddle the line that New York State is actually very Republican, and Hillary helps those people anyway. He says the way to turn the economy around is through a better environment. (On the way out of the speech, I ask a squirrel for a job, and he hands me a business card and tells me he’ll get back to me.)
At one point, Clinton looks like he’s going to make a personal concession. “Full disclosure…” he says. Now when someone says “full disclosure,” they’re generally about to tell you something that conflicts with their eventual point. Something like “full disclosure – I have bought several Michael Bolton albums, but I think he doesn’t have any talent.” Something like that. Instead, Clinton’s point is something like, “full disclosure – Hillary thinks we should take care of veterans.” And that’s it. Somewhere, the devious anti-veteran interest groups are shaking their fists.
Clinton closed his speech out by bragging about the $13 million Hillary has raised since Super Tuesday two weeks ago. Obama has raised $32 million in the last month. He said that was enough “to make this a contest.” Obviously, Clinton is pitching his wife as a large underdog – a claim the polls tend to bear out. He ends his speech by saying Hillary is “a problem solver.” I’ll be sure to call her with questions about my Algebra homework.
At this point, I had been standing for four hours. Clinton descended on my side of the barrier, where I was only about three people deep. He reached into the crowd, which surged forward to meet him. His hand actually swung right by my head. I reached up, shook his hand, and bolted.
I walked 20 minutes in the snow back to my car, only to find that I had become the “victim” of a parking ticket. Time to call Hillary Clinton for help.