this is the seventh presidential cycle in which i've spent time in iowa and/or new hampshire. the first couple of times were fun. now it's just familiar. but this was the first time i was *invited.*
so you'll forgive me if i preface this diary with observations about corn fields (saw one field where the field corn was being harvested, and two others where it had just been harvested), driving by the mississippi river and a plethora of small towns. it's how i know that i'm in iowa. by the time we got to clinton, we were half a million strong and everywhere there was song and celebration -- wait, that's not right. but the arrival around ashford university did make me think of joni mitchell's song. the roads were blocked off, lanes reserved for parking, and the long line of cars let you know that someone special was in town. images from the movie rocked around my brain.
the speech itself was in the school gymnasium. everybody else seemed to know where they were going -- i appeared to be the only lost soul out of place -- so i just followed the line of people. at the door of the building, they asked for the essentials, and, if you were an obama supporter, had you filled out their commitment card? it was all students manning the stations, and probably there were more volunteers then they actually needed. everybody, including the local press, seem excited.
i arrived before obama did. the secret service-like personnel (you know, the guys in dark suits with ear pieces looking like they were in 24 or something) were standing up two parked police cars clearly making a space for the obama entourage. i asked at the front door how many people they expected. no idea. well, how many chairs have been set up (usually someone knows *that* answer). i asked a couple of times before i was told that they had set up 400 chairs. took up about half the space. basically, they filled up the area in front of the cameras. there were approximately a dozen or so television cameras there, and to their right, there were six rows of tables set up for print media.
the doors were supposed to open at 1pm. i got there about twenty before 1 -- and the gynasium was pretty full. before one o'clock, there were definitely more than 400 people there. got to say that in the walk in, i looked for bumber stickers and other identifying items of support of a presidential candidate. i only saw one bumper sticker (besides the two on my car; my wife and i support different candidates), that was for john edwards. but by about ten after, they were already putting up more seats. by the time barack took the podium, there were people in the bleachers, perhaps a hundred or so people standing up, and the room was basically packed.
the crowd was definitely all ages. i'd guess that it was half students and half local iowans. as you see in all these crowds with presidential candidates, there was a large portion of senior citizens, and some of them strained to find seats. there was a smattering of illinois plates parked along the side of the road, but none with obama stickers. they could easily have been students from illinois. but at least one national media source found an illinois obama backer.
the first person to come out was a local soldier, john malcolm, who supports barack. he gave a spirited talk about his experience in iraq (fallujah), how he would return if called back. but he made it very clear that he supported pulling the troops out now. what i didn't realize, though, is that he was there to introduce zbigniew brzezinski. zbig started out with a gracious thanks for john's service to our country. then he gave a very eloquent speech about why our presence in iraq was counterproductive, "it has discredited america as a whole." even without the benefit of intelligence briefings, zbig observed, barack made the right choice, the moral choice.
if you read my diary from tuesday (9-11), you know that i strongly believe in a fresh approach to u.s. foreign policy, especially as it relates to our national security policy. brzezinski is thinking in the same direction -- and so is barack -- noting that this election has the possibility of shaping a new international system. zbig observed that with the emergence of the united states as the sole superpower in the world, we had an opportunity to reshape the international system, but that opportunity was "squandered by the self-destructive war in iraq," a war that "has discredited america worldwide." he ended with an observation of the stakes, "the war in iraq is nothing less than the central test of good political judgment, of real political leadership," that one political leader has shown just that.
for zbigniew brzezinski, that political leader is barack obama.
you could hear clinton's agreement by their rousing reception they gave barack. barack began the speech by thanking the young iowan who introduced him, a candidate in the making -- and making a joke. no doubt, it was a high moment in malcolm's life. barack's speech began with his normal (at least, in my experience) tempered style that one could almost call professorish. after a few jokes, the audience took the seriousness of the subject to heart. but, as barack always does, he won over the audience to his view, that the u.s. must withdraw from iraq if it is to regain the initiative against the distributed network of terrorists that continues to threaten us and hold the next american century hostage.
president bush and the republicans have given us a false choice: their failed strategy or complete withdrawal to america's shores. a president obama offers us an alternative, re-engagement in the war on the terrorists, re-emergence of american leadership in the world, and re-energizing the promise that america has stood for for the 226 years before we recklessly and wrongly invaded iraq.
it begins with our withdrawal from iraq. and barack obama is the leader who can take us there. if the democrats are "on trial on television," barack gives us not only the opportunity, but the moral imperative, to win...
We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden