"Well," I think. "If the only two candidates remaining in this election were Hilary Clinton and Adolph Hitler, I'm not sure who I would vote for."
Mainstream journalists have become America's stenographers of events, riding the surface to reality, recording this surface as fact. Freelance journalists are another breed, like bloggers, with minds not turned off.
I have been on this grueling campaign trail for one struggling month. Campaign trails are not for the wimp hearted. Beginning in Iowa I attended 8 Bill Richardson "house parties" -- in one day! The next day I attended the Stony Creek Bar. Then I covered several Chris Dodd and Bill Biden events, not the most stimulating yet both men were politically solid, and numerous Barack Obama rallies on college campuses. In Iowa, Obama only did college campuses, pep-rally more than political event.
I attempted to cover all the candidates in Iowa, but with something like fifteen zipping around the state, I feel short. Maybe I saw half. Not catching Hilary Clinton, however, was disappointing. Yet, being only the first state in the primary process, I told myself I would see her later.
In New Hampshire I trailed John Edwards as he jumped from small town to small town. Although his crowds were never large, Edwards never slowed down actually, of all the candidates, Edwards was probably the hardest worker. I listen to Ron Paul pontificate at a libertarian meeting, barely mentioning the Iraq War. To a strictly libertarian audience Paul's message was cut taxes and government and rely on marketplace. I attended several Mike Huckabee rallies, where the campaign trail became the God trail. There was John McCain's "Straight Talk Express" bus, which I caught at a stop in Manchester. He was barely there long enough to talk, alone talk straight. I did have a talk with Dennis Kucinich as he barged out the swinging doors of the Radisson Hotel. He said, "Excuse me." I said, "No, excuse me!"
The Granite State was, however, the Hawkeye State. Again I did not make a Clinton event. In both states it was difficult to find out when and where her events were being held, and the few times that I did, the location was too far away. "No problem, later," I told myself.
In Michigan I rode a vicious whirlwind of Mitt Romney events -- staying up with the King of flip-flop is not an easy assignment. After spending election night inside a dive bar on the dismal rim of an industrial graveyard with some of the world's most gorgeous streetwalking drag queens to ever exist in a frozen tundra, I roared down to the sunny warmth of South Carolina. No drag queens, but lots of campaign action as "the first in the South" promised to politically vaporize several more candidates. And it did, Edwards and Thompson.
In Palmetto State I attended several John McCain rallies, in beautiful Charleston, and the Democratic Debate in Myrtle Beach -- "fire works of the beach," I wrote. There was a Fred Thompson sleep-along. Nothing shows how desperate social conservatives are today than their belief Fred Thompson was their savior. I attended a Dennis Kucinich rally and a Duncan Hunter press conference or were they in New Hampshire? The states and events were starting to merge in my frantic mind.
By the end of the South Carolina Primary, I had seen every candidate, most numerous times, except Hilary Clinton. I was beginning to doubt that she existed.
Campaign journalists complain the Clinton operation is the most uncooperative, the most restrictive, and the most secretive of all the campaigns. They say the paranoia of Bill Clinton permeates the campaign of Hilary Clinton. They say if Hilary is elected president her administration will be as anti-press as the Bush administration. I don't know, but I do know getting information from the Clinton campaign on forthcoming events is like sticking your head in a toilet bowl to look for a gold mine. I'm not sure what that means, like I'm not really sure what the Clinton campaign is up to.
Regardless, I do know their nasty wall of un-cooperation did not shape my brutal evaluation of Hilary Clinton. It was only after I attended her event in California that I formed my harsh evaluation of her. Yet, to error on the side of truth, I need to confess the truth. Between Clinton and Hitler, I would never vote for Clinton. If Pol Pot, well I'm not sure about that.
The Event At Last!
A long line of mostly students dressed casually and engaging in light conversation, although rather energetic for 9 AM, weaves through the pleasant campus of California State University. There must be several thousand in line for the event. The weather is beautiful Southern California, sunny, bright blue sky with a touch of crystal white clouds.
Standing off to the side I suddenly notice something very strange. I count the people: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 females and 1 male; 11 females followed by 2 males; 15 females and finally 1 male.
The Clinton political base is females, I understand that. Yet, why are there so few males at this event? I don't like gender politics anymore than I like race politics, both are despicable. Hilary Clinton is running to be president of the United States, not for only women. Why the massive gender imbalance here? Is the problem male student sexism? Is the Clinton campaign going overboard in shaping their events for women? No one wants to go to a political event and feel like an outsider.
Inside the campus gymnasium where the rally is being held, three women are on the stage, and each gives a short speech. They are soon followed by two more women. When I attended the Barak Obama college rallies back in Iowa, gender was never an issue, or race. There was diversity in the audience and on the stage, roughly matching the diversity of America. Isn't that what liberals want? Isn't the Democrat's road to victory paved with diversity?
Speaker after speaker, including Magic Johnston and Sally Fields the applause that greeted the movie star felt like a blowtorch shooting through my ears and roaring my brain. Not pleasant. The mayor of Los Angles and then the mayor of Oakland spoke, this and that official, most were women but there were men. I started relaxing and looking forward to Clinton.
The crowd, however, was growing restless. After more than two and half hours of speakers, sighs rose from the audience as yet another speaker was introduced. All the references to "womanhood" and "historical moment" from the stage could not suppress the growing impatience in the audience. Finally, Hilary bounces down the runway and onto the stage blowtorch noise again roasting my brain.
The New York Times would write that Senator Clinton had unveiled a new stump speech that morning, "replacing her old, policy-heavy remarks with a new overarching message -- 'the America I see.'" Broad themes with emotional punches that personalize as the audiences grow larger, this makes sense. Only days from Super Tuesday the largest Election Day of the primary season when nearly half of all the electoral delegates will be decided -- this is not the time for boring policy details. This is the time to fired-up your troops!
Yet, as I was making serious headway in ignoring the offensive gender imbalance, a new annoyance was developing. Clinton ripped off a litany of issues, from improving pre-school education for the kiddies to strengthening Social Security for the seniors. And a new uneasiness began to crawl in my roasted brain. The campaign mantra for Republicans is cut taxes, cut more taxes, cut.... For Democrats the mantra is to fix every social wrong in society. But fix in what order? What are the priorities? Everything will not be fixed, so what will remain unfixed?
Evidently, the America that Clinton sees is not the America that I see. My top priority was buried deep in her speech of fixes. I don't want this fixed after the kiddies and seniles get their increased funding, but before! Tired of listening to her promise to fix everything except what I consider the most important problem in America, I left the gym to walk around the campus.
Several young men, and one woman, stand on the steps of what I believe is the student center. They hold a simple sign, black letters on white cloth: TROOPS HOME NOW. Next to the sign, a man's T-shirt says, "Iraq Veterans Against The War."
"Who are you backing to be president?" I ask him.
"Well, my candidate already dropped out of the race, Kucinich."
"What you think of Hilary?"
"I really don't know what her stand is on the war," he shrugs his shoulders slightly.
"You know the media is not covering this war," the woman interjects, ratting off several statistics.
"All I hear Clinton say is, 'I want, want, want,'" he says. "But she's never clear on the war."
The most pressing issue of our time is the Iraq War. A war that has destroyed the international reputation of our country, draining our national treasury and damaging our economy, continues to kill and maim Americans and Iraqis, continues to inflict serious mental agony on spouses and children in America. The most pressing issue of our time Hilary Clinton is not clear about.
The America that Hilary Clinton sees is not, evidently, an America whose moral and economic fabric is under attack. She does not seem to see that her dream for fixing so many wrongs in America requires that she first fix this terrible war. If there is less slaughter in Iraq today than a few months ago, it's because some of the horror has taken a short recess. But it will return, killing more and more. Good leaders don't bury issues because the issue has temporarily dropped off the front page.
I do not trust a politician to end a war who buries that promise in her speech. I want it said at the beginning and at the very end of her speech. I want it said clearly. I want it said relentlessly. I don't care what the gender of the audience is. I want said -- TROOPS HOME NOW!