I found out Thinker was going to be in Iowa over the weekend and prevailed upon her to give a report on the political happenings. She obliged:
48 hours of Iowa Democrats has made me a believe in one thing. These people are real citizens – pretty darned informed and willing to listen. They talk in cafe’s as they eat breakfast – about – hold on to your hats – issues, policy, and the Constitution. Of course we were staying in a hotel near the center of Des Moines where all the activities for the annual JJ dinner occur. We went with the Obama group – no choice in that since our kid works for him. But heard speeches from all six candidates that were quite good. Had a “meet and greet” with Barack and Michelle Obama this morning where they stood patiently as parents took pictures of their kids with the Obamas. They were gracious, extraordinarily articulate (Mrs. Obama is beautiful, smart, adores her husband and speaks with all the polish of one who is familiar with policy, politics and the way of campaigns. The news says that Clinton and Obama had equal numbers of supporters at the dinner last night. Simply untrue.
Everywhere we looked – there were Hilary signs – huge signs guarded by rather grim faced young people. But Barack had people – thousands of them. And the joy and life in his crowd was way beyond anything else we saw there. My favorite moment came when after a 6 block street parade, I saw two kids hauling a little old lady up the steps in her wheelchair. They met in the parade and they took care of her after that. Second favorite moment – Michelle Obama snuck away from dinner and spent over an hour up in the bleachers talking to people. When we did cheers she was yelling with us – holding signs and talking to everyone she saw. Third favorite moment – when it was apparent that all food for the big Obama crowds was non existent – along come bottles of water and bags of pretzels. We passed them to one another. Kid behind me – Ma’am do you have extra pretzels. Everyone had enough and there were bags of pretzels being passed among the crowd. It was a hoot.
OK – the speeches. All were distillations from stump speeches I think. Richardson was the poorest speaker, but spoke about Iraq, about the importance of talking with people with whom we disagree and about his accomplishments (there are many ) in New Mexico. Dodd spoke with nostalgia about his memories of being a Kennedy Democrat in the early 60’s and his hope that such an energy would take our country again. Biden’s speech was serious and filled with his concern that we have been pushed to the edge of a precipice by Bush and that we will need to sacrifice to bring our country back. His speech was very good and yet – uninspiring. Edward came alone and looked tired. His speech was fiery and spoke of the poor with heart that is so obviously one with the poor and dispossessed. Hilary – well – it was a good speech and I can’t remember a damn thing about it. That’s weird. Barack was last and by that time we had been in the arena for over 7 hours waiting. The crowd was as energized as it had been in the afternoon. I was a bit tired of sitting and had made lots of old lady friends on the four trips to the bathroom. The staff members were good, energized, hopeful. Barack spoke about healing, about being something more than what we were accustomed to being. His subtle and not so subtle slams at Hilary were clear. I came away trying to remember a few good lines. Listened to both speeches again on the internet. Hilary’s is about change, but only by trusting the Washington establishment. Barack’s is about the goodness of the American people – their readiness to sacrifice so that a system will work. He talked about corruption, lobbyists, justice ignored and all the things you would expect from a candidate. But there was something there missing in the others. I wanted to hear it in Hilary. I heard it – echoed in Edwards – but I also saw someone who is very very tired. Biden – negative about the future. Dodd – nostalgic about the past. Richardson – so many talents and so little ability to inspire. I heard from Obama a kind of hope that we – all of us – will be a positive force. I’ll send you the top three speeches if you want them – Hilary, Barack and John Edwards.
Nancy Pelosi introduced all of them. She did such a good job of being fair and praising all their accomplishments and gifts. Lots of Iowa people spoke and once again, I was struck by the knowledge these people expected of us. No dumb down speeches. It’s like we all skipped two grades after listening to this administration for 7 years.
My heart is moved most by John Edwards. I think he and I are on the same page about suffering. But I was inspired by Barack – sure we could all – Republicans and Democrats could recreate this American thing so that it is real again. These were political speeches – no prophetic moments. I recognize that, but the longing for leadership is so apparent everywhere I go. Felt good about what is being offered. Missing from any speech – illegal aliens. Present in every speech – change from what’s going on now.