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In my entire life, I have never attended a political rally of any large scope. The closest I got was the election-night party at the Orange County Performing Arts Center when my uncle ran (and won) his first term as California State Assemblyman, and a friend's house when he ran for the Cerritos school board (he lost, unfortunately). When my fellow members of the Northern Alliance received an invitation to attend today's George Bush rally, the opportunity was too good to pass up. And I'm glad I didn't.
Quite a few members of our family out here decided to come along, incluing Sean from Everything I Know Is Wrong and the First Mate. However, I got the option of using a VIP ticket to stand in front of the stage, or what I called the Mosh Pit, along with Mitch Berg, and Brian "St. Paul" Ward and the Elder of Fraters Libertas, and I decided that I wanted to see the President up close and personal.
I brought along the digital camera and a cool new digital recorder to capture the speeches. However, I forgot to check the batteries on the camera, and as a result, I only got one usable picture of Bush during his speech. I won't make that mistake again. While I had fresh batteries in the sound recorder, the quality of the recording itself (blaring out from loudspeakers) doesn't lend itself to easy transcription.
In short, I had an early lesson in what not to do in New York, two weeks from now. And I'm glad I learned them now, rather than there.
Apart from these glitches -- and the fact that standing in one spot for four hours is hell on my back and legs -- I have to say that the rally was one of the most energizing political experiences I have had. The Republicans presented a number of speakers, emceed by the ever-acerbic Laura Ingraham, who was in fine form tonight. She led off with a short speech, and after that limited herself to commentary between the speakers. The first emotional high point came early, when St. Paul mayor and Democrat Randy Kelly came onstage to wild approbation in order to endorse George Bush. He explained that America needs "stable leadership" in tough times, and received his longest applause.
Members of the Republican Congressional delegation came and went, all good speakers, to generous cheering. Mark Kennedy quieted the room down with a touching story about his experience with an Iraqi woman who traveled to the US after the liberation to learn more about democracy. After taking her around the Capitol, Kennedy noticed that she had her picture taken with an American flag that she deliberately draped over her shoulder. He got her a flag that had flown over Capitol Hill during 2003 and presented her with it as a gift, explaining that it had flown over the building while her country was being liberated -- and she wept with joy. Gil Gutknecht and John Kline also did a fine job with their time, although both acknowledged that they had been asked to hurry it up, as the rally was running long.
Between these seasoned pros, we heard two firebrands -- Colonel Joe Repya and the leader of the College Republicans, whose name escapes me at the moment. (UPDATE: Eric Hoplin!) Both fired up the crowd, and both held the crowd's attention through their exhortations to get active and make a difference in the election. I was particularly impressed with Eric Hoplin, and feel sure we will hear from him again, and soon.
But by far, the two stars of the night apart from Ricky Skaggs' musical interlude were Senator Norm Coleman and George Bush himself. I got a taste of what was in store later when Coleman took the stage to wild cheers and screaming, and Coleman did not disappoint. Keeping his remarks rather short as well, Coleman went over the ten reasons to keep George Bush in office:
10. Values Matter: "George Bush's values are America's values..."
9. It's The Economy, Stupid: "The Democrats put us into a recession and George Bush is bringing us out.
8. You Can't Beat Somethin' With Nothin': "The Democrats are the bubble-boy party of ideas. They want to stop the tax cuts, stop the churches, stop the highways ... they're a NASCAR racer with no gas pedal."
7. Darned Good Ideas: "He's a reformer with results."
6. Telling The Truth: "John Kerry voted for the war and against it, he voted for education reform and against it, for the Patriot act and against it. He's Wendy's for lunch when the cameras are on him, and shrimp vandallo when the cameras are off. If elected, he'd be the only President to give the State of the Union speech and the rebuttal."
5. Leadership Matters: "[John Kerry] picked his vice-presidential candidate not on the basis of accomplishment but on the basis of polls."
4. We Are At War: "Minnesotans know a work horse from a showhorse, and we don't change horses mid-stream ... We have committed to a goal, and we will finish the job."
3. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait: "The president knows we cannot change course and still come to our destination."
2. He's A Good Man: "He's one of us...He cares more about what Americans think than what the UN or the Europeans think."
1. He's Our President: "When the towers fell, he lifted our spirits; when the terrorists raged, he fired right back...This Xcel Energy center did not rise from words or good intentions, and neither will America rise unless she is led by a man with the courage of his convictions."
Coleman packed more into an eight-minute speech than most people can handle in an hour or more.
And then Bush came on to paroxysms of delight from the crowd. Even those who had been a bit diffident to everyone else -- you know, the too-hip-to-cheer folks that gave golf claps to everyone but Coleman -- seemed to get excited for Bush's prolonged entrance. He arrived in a huge campaign RV (believe me, you won't mistake this beast on the road) that rolled right into the arena, and had to finally wave people down to give Mayor Randy Kelly a chance to introduce him. After the introduction, another multi-minute ovation erupted. Finally, he had the chance to speak.
People have the impression that George Bush is a lousy speaker. Not true. When working from a prepared speech, he's actually very effective and projects a clear and honest charm that is sadly lacking in his opponent's pedantic and lecturing style. He also works best when working in a bit of humor and gentle, understated digging, which the media refers to as "mockery":
I'm proud of my running mate, Dick Cheney. I admit it -- he's not the prettiest face in the race. [Laughter] I didn't pick him for his looks. [Laughter]
Most of his speech stayed on the themes that he has already sounded on the stump this year -- the war on terror, the economy, education and tort reform (with a special emphasis here on medical tort reform, as the Twin Cities hosts several world-class research facilities). He spoke on his newer theme of the "ownership society," noting that more people own their own homes under his expanding economy than ever before. People who own their own homes and businesses, Bush explained, feel more than ever that they own a stake in America.
One highly effective part of his speech dealt with the successes of his administration in implementing reforms of Medicare, education, and other issues, while contrasting it to Kerry's lack of legislative accomplishments in his Senate tenure. He made the point explicit -- voters have the choice in November between the candidate who talks endlessly on issues, and usually on both sides of them, or the candidate who actually made things happen.
I wish I could provide more of Bush's speech, verbatim. Unfortunately, the recording is more difficult to parse than Coleman's, because of the cheering around me during most of it. However, the President's tone and style comes through, even if the mike was too sensitive to the ambient noise, and Bush's ease at the podium clearly comes through. If this was a warm-up to the Republican convention in two weeks, he will blow people people away.
I can't wait.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Live from the Twin Cities , , , from The Key Monk
I'm proud to say that one of the first politicians I ever supported financially was Norm Coleman in his race against Paul Wellstone and (after Wellstone's tragic death in a plane crash) Walter Mondale . . . Here is why Coleman can make a monk proud of ... [Read More]
Tracked on August 19, 2004 10:11 AM
» Rousing Oratory from :: Political Musings ::
Ed at CQ attended yesterday's campaign rally for President Bush in St. Paul Minnesota. He has lots of insight and details, as ususal. The part I enjoyed the most is Senator Norm Coleman's introduction of the President: 10. Values Matter: ... [Read More]
Tracked on August 19, 2004 10:53 AM
» Bush Supporters on Fire in Minnesota from Everything I Know Is Wrong
I was a little busy yesterday so I missed the Wictory Wednesday post. Does that mean this is a Thicktory Thursday post? Yesterday I got the chance to go see the President. Actually there were a few other people there [Read More]
Tracked on August 19, 2004 10:55 AM
» I'm Pumped from The American Mind
After Captain Ed's reporting of a Minnesota Bush event, I want G.W. to get back to SE Wisconsin soon so... [Read More]
Tracked on August 19, 2004 11:42 PM
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