Friday, August 29, 2008

All Aboard for Obama!

The climax, the coda, the main course: last night's acceptance speech by Barack Obama was amazing as oratory and spectacle.

My opinions changed by the hour: when we first arrived, I thought the stage set looked cheesy, like the faux Roman architecture you see at Caesar's Palace (especially with the two large screen videos embedded between the doric columns. But as the day turned to twilight and the stadium filled to capacity, I realized why you had to have a piece of architecture so monumental (to claim the space, of course) and also give the sense that we all were seeing Obama walk out from and return to the Oval Office. It worked.

I love the movie about Obama's life. Did you notice his main reference to growing up in the 60s was about the Space Program? How cool--of all the things you could pick to say about that decade, to highlight the most futuristic aspect is way, way cool.

As always, I must tell you about the logistics: Keep in mind that as media, we had to get on a special bus at 2 pm, which took an hour to go about 500 yards, then through security, then up to the top press skybox.

Fate or somebody (actually, her name was Laurie with the DNCC) smiled upon me and I got a floor pass for the night. Leah had a camera stand pass. We got down there, said hello to the California delegation, roamed around. Decided we needed to bring some food upstairs to John who was starving. Even though they had all summer to plan for this, the folks-behind-the-scenes fell short. They ran out of food, getting down to just chips and nachos by about 6:30. Also, the folks attending had to get on shuttle buses or line up between 1 pm and 3 pm--and the lines of folks wound their way for blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks.

We went back and forth from the skybox to the field and at one point, we were kicked out of a freight elevator by secret service because they had a contingent of senators coming through--John Kerry (MA), Charles Schumer (NY)...others I couldn't recognize....). When Gore was giving his speech ALL security and ALL secret service was blocking every single access point for the media had to reenter the floor/field area. People were absolutely freaking out, yelling, "I've got to do my job!! Let us in!"

We heard Obama speak from our front window seats in the skybox. Leah got a video of the crowd going wild when he finally came out.

It was a great speech. You have to realize anybody working as media was probably working 16 to 18 hour days and clearly, with organizations that did not provide food. Can you imagine working that long with (hopefully, not for) only peanuts? That's how it was for John. He filed his last report at 9:30, it took us until 10:30 to get from Invesco Center to the shuttle to the car. Then 11 pm back at Jane's house where we finally could eat leftovers.

But that is not the main takeaway of the 85,000 who watched Obama speak or the 35 million who saw him on TV.

My thoughts will coalese with proper sleep, I'm sure.

Here's a few comments:

"How funny to be in a football stadium where everyone is on the same team! When the crowd cheered, it was the entire audience." (Leah)

"Did you hear who McCain picked for VP? A right-wing, anti-choice, pro-creation, red state gun-totin' mama. She is so inexperienced you can't even say the debate will be between her and Biden. It'll be the baby vs. Biden." (a vendor on the street)


"She's such a token, such a nobody, so little experience, I bet it will just piss Hillary off. I mean, if she's the VP and McCain topples over, this nobody could be the next president! Well, if there's one thing I know, Ms. Clinton loves a fight. And this might piss her off so much we'll see her come changing back even harder for Barack!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh, what a night!

Omigod, it’s been an all-Clinton convention for two days!! Since the Emily’s List reception last night, her speech on Tuesday and OHMIGO—we got into her PRIVATE reception thanking all her delegates. Her speech this afternoon was ALSO completely fantastic.

I have it all on tape. I gave that tape recorder back to John...long story....and as soon as he gives it back, Leah will help me upload her speech this afternoon and put it on our website.

So, Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, and then the INCREDIBLE move during the roll call vote when Hillary/New York delegation moved to nominate Barack by acclimation....a life highlight. And then Bill’s speech—again, a career highlight, the charisma, the ability to lay out the case and make every single person in the giant convention center feel as if he were speaking directly to us, and us alone.

Hill-ar-ree! Hill-ar-ree!!

It’s been all-Clinton because Obama literally hasn’t been there. But in the afternoon, Leah and I were riding the free tram to get in line to get into the Pepsi Center. And this photographer with a big camera got off at the Hyatt. He said there was a rumor that Barack had checked into the Hyatt Hotel (with the special ESPN suite).

So anyway, on to the convention. We got a little bored with the Biden speech. It was very intimate and probably went over better on TV than live.

But hey, folks—did Barack spend too long on the lip lock with Biden’s wife Jill???? Uhmmm...did I just get all Clinton’d out and am not objective???

And Biden’s son—Beau Biden (biden biden, beau biden fee fi mo miden, bannana fanna ro riden, BIDEN!) saying in the midst of his beautiful speech that he has some obligation in the fall and he can’t be there to stand beside his father...what the hell???!!!! What the f@#$ is so important he can’t “be there” for his dad? What does that even mean? He won’t have time to vote for him? A verbal faux pas, I think.
[Oops - later we heard that he is being deployed to IRAQ and that's why he won't be here. Well, that's a good excuse.)

One more thing: we left a tiny bit early and got on the shuttle to go back to the hotel...on the BUS, another celebrity sighting: either Maxwell Kennedy (RFK’s son) or his cousin and Maria’s younger brother, Bobby Shriver.

Leah goes—no! do not approach him!! (I had been trying to talk to celebrities all night to help John at KFWB news radio. I interviewed Rufus Wainwright who is a jerk and Dennis Kucinich who is great.)

So I really wanted to know if this guy was a Kennedy or a Shriver. What to do? Why call my friend Debra in Santa Monica of course and ask her which Kennedy clan member is the one with the premature white hair.

But I started laughing too loud and sort of got hysterical with exhaustion and giggling and snorting that she had no idea what I was talking about. I was crying with laughter. Leah had to ask. Debra did not know. The people on the bus thought I was maybe on drugs.

When we came home, we googled imaged—it was indeed Max Kennedy and he got off at the very expensive exclusive hotel, the Brown Palace. I am very glad I did not ask if he was himself or his cousin and then start snorting.

Moral of the story: you can only cover an event for so many hours before exhaustion requires you to stop.

Time to Change Your Buttons

This morning, both California and New York delegates had to mark a hastily made paper ballot (not secret--everyone's name and vote was posted on the sheet) and fill in a check mark for either Clinton or Obama. They had to vote before collecting their hall pass for the day. Not all state delegations have voted. Some will vote now, others will vote on the floor at 4 pm. Maybe because the NY and Calif delegations are so large, they had to vote earlier.

At 2 pm, there was a private reception for all of Hillary's delegates at the Colorado Convention Center. There were approximately 1,920 Clinton supporters crammed into one ballroom and a ton of media. I have remarks on tape and will upload her speech on later tonight.

She is now so clearly a national figure, an international figure of consequence. Perhaps that slot held by Sen. Ted Kennedy--lion of the Senate, champion of health care and civil rights--will be passed over to Hillary. Each speech she makes here at the convention is more powerful, more confident, more humorous than anything I've saw during her campaign.

We met this a great African-American delegate from Lancaster in Southern California. She was wearing all Obama buttons covering her shirt. When Hillary spoke last night, she was covered in Hillary buttons. But she changed them out because she promised her friend that she would put on her Obama buttons after Hillary spoke. "I switched my buttons," she said, "but I haven't switched my heart."

There's no doubt that Hillary supports Barack Obama and as she said, "I officially release you to vote your conscious. This morning, I signed my ballot for Obama. But you represent so many different journeys to get here, I cannot tell you what to do. You may represent your constituents back home, you can vote your heart, you can vote for Obama."

She also said, "it may have hurt after the primary. But I'll tell you, if McCain wins in November, it's going to hurt a whole lot more."

[We are working on uploading all the speeches and inteviews I recorded. Hopefully we'll have a link by tomorrow. We're pretty exhausted right now and girding our loins to deal with the endless shuttle and security lines for Invesco Field & Obama tonight. So, coming soon: Hillary's full speech releasing her delegates, Interview w/ Rep. Barney Frank on the housing crisis, No Snakes on this Plane--an intervew with Sen. Barbara Boxer. And more!]

My Favorite Quote

Yesterday, I went to a LGBT luncheon sponsored by the Human Rights Commission featuring openly gay Congressman Barney Frank from Massachusets. He called for unity between the Obama and Hillary delegates. But you know, Barney has style. He doesn't pull his punches.

He said "Did you see Ted Kennedy last night? A man like that, facing a terminal illness...if he could come here and give a make a speech like that, could everyone else stop bitching?!"

Feeling Secure?

I can't begin to count the number of security forces and SWAT teams walking around/driving around/encircling all of Denver. Think about that, San Francisco, before you volunteer to host one of these things.

Roads downtown are closed, then opened, and closed down again. The Pepsi Center is encircled by a large "no access to cars" concrete barrier. There are two security checkpoints before you can get inside. You have to open your bags and take out all the metal in your pockets, just like the airport.

Real restaurants and businesses are caught inside the security perimeter. The restaurants are making money because they've turned themselves over to CNN and FOX and other media outlets to be their headquarters.

But the Denver Film Institute is also caught inside the no-go-without-a-pass zone. They've turned their facilities over to STARZ cable channel which is sponsoring a week-long program of political films, panels, and book signings. On a normal week, it'd be a 1 minute walk from the Film Institute at the old brick Tivoli Brewing Co. building to the Pepsi Center. Not this week....but it's still close.

Keep that point in mind regarding this story: On Monday afternoon I attended a panel discussion about U.S. foreign policy with the rise of China, India, and Russia. (Plus Europe) Some of the country's best minds from Harvard and Princeton and former Clinton cabinet officials.

The room was stifling hot!! We thought we were going to faint. An event coordiantor came to the front with a microphone to apologize. "Sorry the air conditioning is out. We have a tech guy trying to get up on the roof to fix the equipment. He's working right now to get his security clearance to be on the rooftop."

Where We're Sitting

We're getting emails from friends saying you are looking for us and you'd like to know: where are we sitting?

First, let me describe how you get inside. (See other post "Feeling Secure?"

Leah came last night and I went out, beyond the security perimeter to meet her. We all have to go through two security checkpoints to get inside. If you come to the Pepsi Center at a reasonable time, say, after 6 pm but well before the prime-time speakers at 7:30, you are caught in a massive line for 45 minutes at least while everyone goes through airport level security and examination. But then you're in and hopefully, everyone is safe. There is a huge secret service and SWAT team presence. Is it needed? Who knows. Leah thought several of the guys looked like Matt Damon in the Borne Identity.

For Hillary's speech, we were up in John's KFWB skybox at the very top floor right next to the Spanish language reporters from Radio Marti and the African American reporters from Voice ONE, sitting on metal aisle steps seemingly suspended over the top of the entire convention hall. This floor provided working space for all kinds of radio-based medai--NPR, CBS, Reuters, CBS. Even though we were perched on a meal stairwell sort of hanging in midair, it was a fabulous seat, facing the stage, 3 large video screen and fresh air.

For Michelle's speech on Monday (Leah wasn't here yet), I was on the floor--special pass required, provided for 1 hour--standing in an aisle, looking right at her. A crush of people pressing behind me. Not fun. Thought I'd get beaned by one of those signs. BUT--the ability to look directly at Michelle Obama LIVE and REAL and then look up and see her on 3 larger than life video monitors reveals exactly what movie star glamour is all about. Yes, the camera loves her, as it loved Garbo and Hepburn and Penelope Cruz and Sophia Loren.

By the way, I was completely won over by Michelle Obama on Tuesday at the Emily's List private luncheon for big women $$ donors. Even though I saw her via video feed in the hotel lobby becuase the event was sold out, she was more real, more willing to let down her guard. Go girlfriend!!!!

Back to seating--For Ted Kennedy's speech, I was in my official press section which they put waaaaay to the right of the stage (and another one waaaay to the left of the stage) so I could only see Kennedy in profile. Profile in Courage I guess!!

Tuesday photos

You can take a look at our photos from yesterday here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's all about HILLARY

Tuesday night and Leah and I saw Hillary's speech from high up in the KFWB skybox.

Now, wasn't that the BEST speech in Hillary's career? The crowd went wild over the damn movie. It only went up from there when Chelsea came out.

Great lines: "Were you in this for ME or where you in this for the veteran? Were you in this for ME or were you in this for the people without healthcare?"

Also, the hit on McCain, talking about him and Bush in Twin Cities. Hope Obama takes ahold of that line!! And the whole reference to the suffragettes and women gaining the vote 88 years ago.

We cried. You know the floor people run around with signs all the time depending on who is talking. Somehow, the Hillary signs and the "Obama/Hillary Unity" signs made it up to the skyboxes. I have no idea how, but we got them.

So hey: I was waving the sign for Ted, I was waving the sign for Michelle. Tonight I was waving the sign with all my heart for Hillary. And on Thursday, I'm sure I will be waving the sign for Barack.

Other notes: The hottest ticket of the day with the Emily's List luncheon at 2 pm. John got on the wait list and made it inside. There were only 40 slots for media and 300 of us showed up. They made it good: we got to see/hear the live video feed on 3 large screen monitors in the ballroom lobby. And, for those of you who know--they gave us lovely food--cheese cake and desert. I love them. They know what matters.


When you see all those delegates on TV, you might wonder--did they get a gift bag?

Yes, they did. Here's what was inside the gift bag of the California delegation:

1. a very nice canvas bag with zipper w/ nice poppy flower logo that is low-key enough that you wouldn't mind taking it to the beach next summer.

2. Little red, white, and blue stuffed animal/dog with Uncle Sam hat from Target.

3. Blue tote bag that zips up small ("green manatt") so you don't have to use a plastic bag when you go to the drug store or whatever during your week in Denver.

4. Blue plastic squeeze clip w/ magnet on back, you know, for all those papers you're going to collect that you'll want to save on your refrigerator door next month.

5. Small flashlight keychain w/ logo of PG&E and the 08 Democratic National Convention

6. Gray Arco-bag that you can wear like a backpack but way flimsier that you'll never be able to regift because its small and gray-colored and it says BIO: Biotechnology Industry Organziation on one side.

7. Really cool graphic post cards of Obama. Might be the best thing in the bag. Best thing so far for sure.

8. A DVD entitled "Pechanga: Our Story Continues" (Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians)

9. a notepad for scribbling on with a big logo (sort of grayed-out so you can still read that phone number) of the Professional Engineers in California Government. "Engineering California's Future." They paid someone to come up with that slogan.

10. Another note pad, this one with an image of two firemen and the logo "California Professional Firefighters."

11. A wine glass w/ the logo "California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi." Like you have to start drinking to think about who works with Arnold in state government.

12. a ceramic bobble head statuette of Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villarnaigosa. Wow! If only it were Chewbacca!!

13. A slinky. Because it's tough to be a delegate. You gotta work out the stress.

14. A fortune ball. Okay, that's cool. I just asked it, "Does Obama really think he has to compromise on offshore drilling?" it answered "don't bet on it." Oh, I feel better now.

15. a clickey-clack yellow finger thing. If you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky. You might have heard one of these at a marathon race everytime a runner made it over the finish line. It hurts the ears of dogs.

16. a large plastic cup of dried fruits and nuts from Hadley's Fruit Orchards

17. Playing cards with a Waste Management logo

18. small vial of perfume

19. Oh god, there's still more crap: another little zipper bag with alcohol wipes inside

20. A coffee mug with a picture of a flower from Dianne Feinstein. thank you, Dianne. It's stately. I hope your ankle heals soon.

21. Wow! Real binoculars from a company called LEEDS. Okay, current winner for best thing in the bag.

22. moisturizing eye drops. Very considerate of them. Kindest thing in the bag.

23. a Blue pedometer so you can measure how steps it is from your hotel to the Pepsi Center

24. a yo-yo

25. a black leather holder for your business cards as long as you don't mind that it says "California Credit Union Leader" on the front.

26. Hey! a 1 Gigabyte memory stick for your laptop that says Lockyer California Treasure. That's okay. 1 gig is 1 gig. That's very nice.

27. Assorted pens

28. key chain and perhaps flashlight (I couldn't tell) from the California Nations Indian Gaming Association

Remember folks, this is a GREEN convention where we're supposed to recycle (repair, reuse). Oh, silly me. This is being compared to the other freebies being passed out around town. Use your imagination. Tomorrow: Arianna Huffington's Oasis Lounge. In detail.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Night

Tonight was my first night ever on the floor of a political convention. None of the conferences, the film festivals, the symposiums, the concerts, the athletic events can compare. How to describe it? Normally, you'd see a basketball game here, maybe a Madonna concert.

In person, the convention floor is both more intimate than I expected and also a little Las Vegas. Why Vegas? Because of all the spotlights, the carpet, the dark metal girders framing the space, the knots of people and cameras in a mixture of small areas, the focusing around a few big names, big celebs while a million other things are going on in the background the same way that a crowd will cluster around a pit boss and a group of folks on a winning streak, the video screens, the lights. And of course the big gamble on the country's future. (Gamble? What gamble? It's a sure bet!!) All that was missing was the ding-ding-ding of the casino floor.

And yet why intimate? Well, the floor is carpeted. There are folding chairs to fill every available space. I'm able to walk right up to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and ask for her autograph, which I admit is a little weird. (Long story there, consider this a shout-out to Jennifer and Glenna and Matty.) There's no traditional advertising banners hanging from the rafters--everything, and I mean every single banner, trumpeted the names of media outlets (and their skybox and/or work area. So there were banners for BBC, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, AP, you know, the usual suspects. (There's only a few media companies left, after all.)

Instead of looking down at a game where there's room for the players to move, its a sea of people. People walking around, people in chairs. Chairs with tv monitors displaying subtitles for the hearing impaired, people with disabilities and wheelchairs, even a few kids in strollers. How in the world did they all get through security?

At 6:30 pm, the crush of people trying to get to through security was painful. A tall man with an air of authority with a floor pass from the DNC reassured people--"we'll get in by 7" he said. "Caroline Kennedy won't come on until 7:30 and Michelle Obama won't speak until 8:30."

That, by the way, is my answer. Prime-time in Mountain Time means 7:30 to satisfy both the East Coast viewers and the West Coast viewers.

Back to the convention floor--so there are small raised platforms where the big TV guys stand and the photographers with the amazing camera lens that are larger than a VW van are aimed at the stage. There are these boom things that rise up and down and seem to have only a small binocular attached at the end. Ok, it's obviously a camera because I saw it was hooked up to a video monitor, but it looked like a guy had gotten a great extension tool for his personal opera spy glasses.

Then there are all the roaming cameras with the lights and the interviewer with the microphone. I saw a knot of these folks around former presidential candidate George McGovern. My George--his was the first campaign I ever volunteered for. I still have his campaign poster that he signed on a book tour that took him through Marin.

I saw former Secretary of State Madeline Albright walking into the Pepsi Center wearing a white pantsuit. And I saw her leaving at the end of the evening with a huge crowd of people streaming out after Michelle Obama spoke, What are the chances? At least I knew who she was. I am seeing so many distinguished white-haired men of a certain age with a certain type of gravitas. Who are you? Clearly you are running a small but significant portion of this country. Would it hurt to wear a name tag? At least on TV they tell you who it is.

So all that, plus a few people in the silly hats and the buttons and vertical signage that says the name of the state where the delegates are sitting. Just like always.

But you're wondering--what about the speeches? Yes, the speeches.

Okay, it's late and I'm tired and I've already given my low-down to my sister Jane, my nephew Jonathan, and Leah by telephone (she's flying in tomorrow).

I thought Caroline Kennedy was beautifully turned out. Just dazzling on a visual level. But she cannot speak. She delivered her speech (which was very moving) in a sing-song voice. She never was in the public eye and only came out, so to speak, for Obama. Her lack of experience, coupled with the expectations of her family name are a flat-tasting brew.

The movie about Ted was terrific. Frantic assistants ran up and down the aisles passing out Kennedy signs that we were to hold up and shake and cheer at the right moment, like, when he came out.

And that he did. I was off to the extreme left side of the stage and saw the handler escort him to the position where he could walk straight to the podium. He was a little stiff, a little bent over. But hey! He had all his hair! How do you go through a brain surgery and keep all your hair? And he just has so many accomplishments. And you show us those pictures of JFK and Bobby and hell, it just brings tears to my eyes. And he made some great points. About how we as a country should reach for lofty goals like his brother did in launching the Space program and the race to the moon. He said something to the effect of, I saw it (these ambitious and idealistic programs), I lived it, I know we can do it and we can do it again. But he said it better. Like he loved us and loved the country and knew what we were capable of, the way, well, the way a beloved uncle knows you.

So yeah, I shook the sign they gave me and I meant it. TED-DEE! TED-DEE!! And consistently, the crowd gave its warmest cheers anytime the subject of universal health care came up. And it came up a lot with Uncle Teddy.

Now then--Michelle. Is she a movie star or what? Is she like, Ms. Diana Ross but like, a nice socially aware version? The camera loves her. Loves her loves her loves. By that I mean, she was right there, very beautiful but still, normal. And then again times 3, there she was on the giant video monitor directly above and much larger. And MUCH more stunning. They say the camera just loves some people--the planes of their face, the shape of their eyebrows, their cheeks. Michelle Obama is one of those people.

Wasn't crazy about the speech. Sounded to me like she is still doing damage control that yes, in fact, she loves her country and is still responding to that kerfuffle last season when the right-wing pounced on her for her statement blah, blah blah. And she sounded like she was really trying to sound sincere and from the heart. Oh come on, Michelle--what do you REALLY think about all this?

And the brother. Okay, nice guy. Basketball coach, Oregon, oh so lovey-dovey. I mean, he's okay. He's not going to be a Roger Clinton or a Billy Carter. But since when did the convention become the place where the American public vets the political family? Who cares? The man is not that great a speaker. Could you please keep this thing moving along because we all really just want to see Michelle. Be in the same room with her. Pretend that we know her, like Sophia Loren or something.

And that whole romance dating thing that the Obama's think they have to explain to us. Did you get it? I didn't get it at all. The decisive moment in their relationship was when he invited her for ice cream after the company picnic? What? Could someone do another draft of this and get me the rewrite by the morning? It's just sort of a nothing story. No one would accept this story in a workshop. What are you afraid of exploring here? they'd all say. They'd rip her speech writers apart.

But then they get the big guy on the remote satellite link and he makes this great joke. He connects. He makes the nothing phrases sound really cool. Oh, he's got something alright. Thursday night will be amazing.

For the record, every media pundit says Michelle Obama delivered a homerun. Knock-out speech. So it's probably just me. Maybe because the aides were running around with those long vertical Michelle signs, trying to pass them out during the brother's speech. Maybe they are just so new. So brand new to the national stage, hard to see them after the dynasty.

What the heck. It's probably just me.

Quick Takes on Monday

Nancy Pelosi addressed the California delegation this morning asking for unity and also focusing on her opposition to offshore coastal drilling. Good to hear, except why then is she willing to let the House Republicans propose drilling when they gather this fall to debate a comprehensive energy bill?

While I tried to find her afterwards in the hallway, she was speaking with a small group of high-level CA delegates (I recognized San Francisco-based lesbian politico Roberta Actenberg) and then was whisked away through the service exit. If only I could have gotten to the Sheraton Hotel at 7 am when she held her official press conference. If only I hadn't stayed up until 1 am.

This really is like Burning Man, where you can be awake from dawn to dawn and still not see it all, hear it all, or find half of it.

I'm in the "Big Tent" right now blogging from a wired room sponsored by Daily Kos and Netroots Nation. Upstairs is a VIP lounge sponsored by Arianna Huffington. And she'll be here later to promote a book and speak on a panel.

People are walking around this large room with television cameras and laptops.. There's coffee in the corner and flat screen TVs set to CNN. The room itself is like an unfinished two-story building, supported by steel girders, but with walls made of tented material and huge banners promoting nonprofits, causes, and sponsors.

CNN, it appears, still has the real news. I'm seeing Rep. Barney Frank being interviewed. Drat! Can't hear a word above the din. But I'd like to speak to him and get his off-the-cuff comments on the housing crisis which everyone assumes will continue if not worsen.

So all I can offer thus far in the day is impressions:

--A ton of helmeted policemen. Some on horseback, all in riot gear with helmets. State Senator Art Torres said this would be the most security-focused convention in memory. The forces are out and patrolling.

--On Sunday, a small contigent of people mached through downtown to the nearby park with signs proclaiming "Nobama." I give credit for the clever word play. But there were also a few signs supporting McCain. Who are these people? Today's front page of the Denver Post had the one moment when a youthful protester screamed at a policeman. Otherwise, the paper said, the crowd was calm and polite and made a point to wait for traffic lights to change before marching down the street. Now, really--full riot gear for this? At least I did see a few policemen taking photos and getting into the excitment. The full-time work thing has its drawbacks.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Party Plane

This morning, just about everyone on the 9:30 am flight from Oakland to Denver was going to the Convention. I got on early (anxiety about turbulence) and sat in the second row. On they came, folks wearing Hillary T-shirts, Obama T-shirts, youthful delegates from the East Bay and as far north as Washington State. The lovely woman who sat next to me, Amanda Metcalf, is a San Rafael-based attorney who worked on Obama's finance committee. Everyone who raised money for Obama is staying at the Hyatt, by the way.

The plane took off, we talked. I told her I was a journalist and she told me that Senator Barbara Boxer was on the flight. Are you kidding? Senator Barbara Boxer is flying on Southwest Airlines? I guess I should interview her.

"Go talk to her," Metcalf urged. "Go talk to her!!" Oh, she was the right seatmate for me.

I had to check it out (with my digital audio recorder in hand) by walking all the way from the front of the plane to the other bathroom in the rear. Didn't see her. Walked back, finally recognized the hair.

She was deep in thought working on a manuscript. I knelt down and asked if I could have a few moments to ask a question or two. "Well, I have to work on this book," she said. "This is my only time." She gave me the pained but polite expression of someone who doesn't have enough private time to work on creative projects.

I replied that I was credentialed by the Pacific Sun--her alma mater in a manner of speaking (she worked there as reporter herself before launching her first race as a Marin Supervisor in the 70s).

That made all the difference: Yes.

So I began: "Right now people at home are worried about Obama being down in the polls, that he's supporting offshore drilling. How does it feel to you heading into the convention? Are your happy? Worried?

Sen. Boxer: "This is one of the most exciting moments in history, and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are on the right side of it.
It’s a golden moment, not only in the presidential race, but also in the house and senate races where we have a good chance to get a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate. So, whoever thinks Barack is down in the polls, I don’t know what poll they’re reading. He’s up a little bit, actually. We’re just where we want to be. If you’re too far ahead, people get lackadaisical."

BT: "How do you feel about Sen. Dianne Feinstein breaking her ankle?" (FYI-she cancelled her trip to Denver.)

Sen. Boxer: "I just talked to Dianne. She just feels so bad about it. I'll do everything I can to fill in for her. I’ll pitch in and cover as many events as I can. I'll do as many national events as I can to make the case why McCain is really McBush and we need change."

BT: There's so many events on the agenda! Think you'll get any sleep?

Sen. Boxer: "Oh, sure. I always manage. I'll get up at 5 am or 6 every morning."

BT: I told my co-workers that this is like going to Burning Man, but with suits and ties.

Sen. Boxer: "I’ve never been to Burning Man. I don't think so. But I think the convention will be great."

BT: How many conventions have you been to?

Sen. Boxer: "I have not missed a convention since the 80s. My first one was in 1984. (She turns to her husband, Oakland attorney Stewart Boxer) What was the first one? 1984--Geraldine Ferraro/Mondale, that was my first one, I was elected in 82.
That was my first and I’ve never missed one since. I’m really excited about this one. And Biden is a great pick, too."


That was pretty cool. Then, on the little Denver airport tram that everyone boards to head over to baggage claim, we saw two very distinguished older men. Again my the outgoing and astute Ms. Metcalf thought they were of significant standing. "Go ask their names!" This time it was me urging her on. She did.

The guys were Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, longest serving member of the Senate, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and lion-likd protector of our civil rights. And Illinois senior Senator Richard Durbin.

I chatted with them. But I can't remember what we said. Mind you, this doesn't reach the level of my friend, Robert, who shared a flight and spoke with the legendary Ms. Dionne Warwick last year, but I was star struck all the same. I have never spoken with a lion of the senate or a lion of any kind while heading to baggage claim.

As of this morning, policians have become rock stars. Sen. Leahy was kind and warm. He was charming. All I can remember from our chit-chat was that he said we have to elect Obama because the next president was going to appoint 3 justices to the Supreme Court.

I realized I was standing next to Leahy's wife. I apologized for ignoring her. She was gracious. "Oh," she said, "you're not ignoring ME. You just paying attention to HIM."

As we exited the little tunnel and walked out to the baggage claim-level concourse--there was a bank of TV cameras, photographers, and people holding up DNC signs, Obama signs, and the more typical "I am your driver" signage. I let out a whoop and a cheer as if the curtains had parted and the actors had come on stage.

On with the show!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Hidin' From Biden

I heard the news this morning on the radio. I never signed up for a text message. After all, I wanted a little suspense next week. But that's increasingly rare. (And that's why those old B&W movies are classics: Look Ma, something unscripted actually HAPPENS at a convention!) I've always liked Biden--he shoots off his mouth and wanders away from the talking points memo (in a good way). Remember when he lectured reporters at one the earlier debates about how much more dangerous Pakistan was than Iran? I remember he compared the two and said Iran was not even close (as a strategic danger). A little honest talk after 8 years of hard-sell marketing is a good thing. And of course, we can all connect the dots that Obama praised Doris Goodwin Kearns' book "Team of Rivals." I can imagine the meeting with Caroline Kennedy--start with my primary opponents. Um, except for Hillary.

As Leah says, it's good because she wants Obama to win. With Hillary, you always have the 'what-about-Bill?" question.

Dan says Biden has gravitas, the foreign policy cred, and the personal tragedy, up-from-poverty personal story.

And Owen from work says, the statue of limitations has passed on the college plagiarism scandal, plus he's survived personal tragedy (which includes but is not limited to the tragedy of hair plugs).

Now we've all just got to work on that double-b pronunciation: Oh-BOMB-a-BYE-Den! It kinda works.

Movies About Conventions

After the Olympics, can the 4-day TV extravaganza of men in ties and women in power suits possibly compete with bikini-clad beach volleyball demigods? If you're thinking, yep, that about describes it, then I think a good compromise is ordering these classics from Netflix:

--The Best Man, 1964, from a 1960 Broadway hit by author & critic Gore Vidal
This black & white period piece follows the behind-the-scenes schemes and machinations by Henry Fonda (an Adlai Stevenson-like character) versus Cliff Robertson (half JFK, half Joe McCarthy). And Lee Tracey as the Souther President (a little Lyndon Johnson mixed with Eisenhower and some heart problems.) Guess which character Vidal paints as the philanderer.

--The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, the original please. Don't waste your time with the remake.
The best villain of all time (Angela Langsbury) plus James Gregory as her evil, Joe McCarthy-type husband, Senator Iselin, it makes up for truly turgid performances by Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. God knows, we don't want the violent strain of American politics to rear its ugly head in this (or any) election, but this film sure packs a wallop of suspense with hidden gunmen in Madison Square Garden. Even better, show this to someone younger than age 25 and be prepared to explain the meaning of "communist."

--The Parallax View, 1974, starring Warren Beatty.
Esteemed film critic Pauline Kael was famously known to see a move once and once only, and then dash off a review so insightful, so penetrating, it stands the test of time when you flip through her many books of collected film criticism.

Me? I remember how much I loved a film but have had to apologize to guests more than once with a humble, "maybe you had to be 14 years old when you see this film." Or, "It was right after 9-11, it seemed to resonate. i guess now it's just dull."

I haven't seen the Parallex View since it first came out in the early '70s and my friends all saw it in one of those old fabulous theaters on Hollywood Blvd. It was deep, man! It told the truth! There was nothng like it before Oliver Stone and Michael Mann and so many other reexaminations of 60s-era sacred cows. Today, is there anyone left who believes the Warren Commission? Back then, our parents did. And they were shocked--shocked! really!--during Watergate to hear evidence that government officials lied to us.

Back to the Parallax View. First, this might be a moot point. Can you even get this on video? That would be a pity and it's high time someone at Paramount start digging through the vaults. All I can remember is how this was one of the earliest films to explore the long shadow of doubt cast by JFK's assassination and the laughable Warren Commission's official conclusion of the lone gunman. In the 60s, there were plenty of books, newspaper articles, but not the fictional and visual exploration of cinema. If you were impressed by the Beatty of Bullworth, go back to his earlier work in the Parallax View.

--Honorable mentions:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Yeah, yeah. For the optimists among you. Dave and The American President (for those who want to escape the cynical spell cast over the 60s and 70s). And even Being There from 1980 with Peter Sellers, because it reveals more with each viewing, just like Chance, the gardener.

--Extra Credit and a longer post
All the films inspired by Watergate.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On to Denver.. and Into History

Marin County's Pacific Sun's feature cover story appears today. It begins on page 13. Written by Barbara Tannenbaum and photos by Leah Brooks.