All right, my original post got "ba-leeted" after I pressed the "Preview" button, so I'm trying to summon up the energy to do a second-go at it. If it's not brilliant and funny, you know why...
I was one of the "handpicked" people who got to attend Sen. Obama's appearance at Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC). In the interest of full disclosure, I am 100% a Hillary Clinton supporter. With that said, I found it RIDICULOUS that the local paper, The Fayetteville Observer, headlined today's paper with something to the effect of "Obama to speak to handpicked audience." You want to know how I got chosen? My friend is a HUGE Obama supporter who managed finally to contact someone who was helping with the event. The Obama person then asked my friend to contact military, military families, and veterans to attend. As a veteran of the Iraq war (former Army captain), she let me in (and I was too happy to brag to all my friends that I got my "golden ticket"). But let's review this hand-picked crowd: local elected officials and community leaders (which took up half the room), local Obama supporters, and military, military families and veterans. Let's compare this to the Bush Administration which VETS their audiences.
We talk about how "words" are important...so does "not open to the public" equal "handpicked"? I suppose, but let's talk about connotations of words: A) Sen. Obama spoke to a group of local Democrats and included members of the military, their families, and veterans and B) Sen. Obama spoke to a handpicked audience. Do those sentences convey different messages??
Okay, so my local paper political coverage is bad (they also messed up with a Sunday article about Clinton, but ... whatever). In any case, I arrived at FTCC early this morning, after getting some coffee. One of my friends texted me to tell the security people to let me in the VIP parking (hand-picked parking!!). I entered the lobby of the building, and saw some local elected officials and community leaders hanging around, including our local superdelegate. I met my "party" and we talked about Sen. Obama's speech about race yesterday. I talked about Sen. Clinton's speech and press conference yesterday afternoon that was great, but how it got eclipsed by the Illinois senator (and I understand it...but C-SPAN still needs to post it! It was good!). I saw a few soldiers in uniform. This made me uncomfortable b/c 1) I'm pretty sure it's against regulations to wear your uniform at a political rally and 2) Even if it isn't explicitly wrong, it's IMPLICITLY inappropriate. Put on civilian clothes for an hour, and let's pretend to keep politics out of the military (just like we criticize the Administration for using soldiers as props in their public relations campaigns).
Eventually we went through security and took our seats. We were still a bit early, so we sat in about the fifth or sixth row of chairs. The press was camped out in the rear of the room. Eventually more people filtered in. The sign on the podium said "Judgement to Lead." So I guess we knew what the message of the day was...(spoiler alert: He said "judgement" about three to four times in his speech).
Our first celebrity sighting was Annie Liebowitz (spelling?), the famous photographer. I don't know how they choose their music, but they needed to fire the DJ. There was some good dance music (I thought to energize the crowd), but then switched to groove music (maybe establish the mood for "cool" Obama, I thought), but then went into Kool and the Gang (...). I was struck that all the staffers for Obama appeared to be young blonde women. Someone told me that most Clinton staffers are young men. Don't know what that's all about!!
The time for the speech to begin came...and passed. Someone said that President Bush was on TV, so that Sen. Obama would probably wait for him to finish until beginning.
At one point, the music seemed to quiet, and there was some ruffling in the curtains from where the senator would enter. The curtains parted, some of the women I was with gasped...then cried out and OHMYGOD...it's...Anderson Cooper!!!! Apparently...he's dreamy. I got caught up in the action and got some pictures of the back of his head.
Forty minutes after when the speech was supposed to begin (what? Are we on Clinton time?!?), the "voice on high" announced the introducer (I forget his name, sadly. He's a Medal of Honor Recipient). The retired officer, after saying that it's tough being a member of the 101st ("Screamin' Eagles!") and appearing in 82nd country (Airborne!! ... I was never 82nd, but still), then said that the medal of honor was non-political, so he would take it off while he spoke (which he did). He then went on to say the country needs good military leaders, and said that for 16 years we haven't had it. I turned to a friend and said, "Um...did he just include Clinton in that?!" Weird. I can only assume he got his math wrong...I can only assume. Hmm.
He then compared Sen. Obama to Lincoln, and talked about the values needed in a leader. He said "time in rank" doesn't mean anything (though he then said Eisenhower didn't need time in rank to led D-Day...but, um, I'm pretty sure that's how he became general and how everyone in fact gets promoted and paid). He then introduced Sen. Obama.
(It was funny, he first said "Barack Obama" w/o meaning to actually introduce him, so Sen. Obama stuck his head out of the curtain for a second, then went back in. I thought, "OMG! I just saw Obama! I'm going to see him!" ...me and my political fanboy-ness)
Sen. Obama took the stage and began his remarks. I have to say...I was disappointed. I think the mythos of Obama has been created and the expectation raised so high, that he's extremely energetic and charismatic. But, he just wasn't "on" today. And I don't mean to criticize, b/c I can understand in a national campaign, it can get tiring. He was in Penn. yesterday, giving a big speech, then schlepped it to NC, was going to Charlotte later. He seemed to just read the speech, like seeing it for the first time, looking left, right, left, right with the teleprompter. When the audience laughed or applauded, he just paused for a second, then moved on. He didn't seem to connect with the audience. Again...he's not a cartoon character, I imagine he can't be Mr. Hope and Charisma everyday.
That being said, I thought the content of his speech was excellent. I think the Dome has a transcript, and I recommend everyone to check it out. As a vet and Fayetteville guy, it was very important that he not JUST talk about Iraq. For one thing, Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base is spending half their deployments in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom, which to me has become the "Forgotten War" is still going on. People are still dying, there's still suicide bombers, there's still Taliban...and, oh yeah, there's still bin Laden!!!
But he talked about Iraq. He criticized Sen. Clinton, lumping her with President Bush and Sen. McCain about her vote for the use of force resolution and her not reading intelligence reports. Then he spoke about her being a DC insider (which, um, where does he work again? Anyway...). He criticized Bush-McCain for open-ended war ("When violence was up, [McCain] says we couldn't leave; when violence was down, he says we couldn't leave").
He also talked about the need to engage in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border. He then spoke about the larger picture of Iran, Pakistan, and N. Korea. He spoke about China and global warming. I'll admit my mind wandered in the end, which, considering this is my area was weird. Again, he was just "off" this morning.
After he finished, he worked the front row, as people mobbed to get handshakes and photographs. I got a few interviews (I'm a meda wh...). I said that I appreciated Sen. Obama appearing in Flavor-ville...okay, I said Fayetteville. That it was important to show your readiness to be commander-in-chief on day one. I complimented him on some of the things I said above. I contrasted the Democrats' message of engagement w/ Bush-McCain "stay the course." And when asked if I supported him, I ... "exaggerated"...and said I would just vote during the primary, and implicitly said I was undecided. I did go off-the-record a few times, saying I was a Clinton-ista. But I wasn't there to criticize Sen. Obama, this is a time to show people that Democrats' have the stronger message on national security and foreign policy.
Another celebrity sighting was some guy from Newsweek. Can't remember his name, but I think he's on MSNBC. Some of my friends spoke w/ Obama staffers. I got interviewed on camera once...but have no idea who they were with (if I show up on the Daily Worker's TV news...).
In any case, I'm glad Sen. Obama came, and I know everyone wants him to have a public rally here later. I look forward to Sen. Clinton coming (if asked, I will fly my Clinton flag then!).