What to do on a Friday night in New England? We loaded up the car with granola bars, water bottles (reusable, filled with tap water, of course), my new crochet project (my first after a seven year hiatus) and road tripped to New Hampshire to be a part of the political fervor that is primary season.
L. googled and found a free and public event for young professionals hosted by a company called wedu (insert umlaut above the letter u). Senator McCain was the guest of honor. Today Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak in New Hampshire. We couldn't wait for today. McCain it was meant to be.
We followed Linda, our gps device, north to Manchester, New Hampshire, arriving about twenty minutes early. We knew it was the right venue due to the McCain bus and the McCain Hummer souped up for parade events. A Hummer? I remember that Hummer provided a vehicle to a certain Indiana Republican, Chocola, for politicking. I guess McCain was on their list too. (McCain was later to address environmental issues and the problem of dependence on foreign oil.) To be fair, perhaps the Hummer belonged to an ardent follower. Still.
We were handed blue McCain lapel stickers by a guy on the right and Sierra Club flyers and stickers from the left. We donned the stickers--might as well get in costume for the event. The room, which seated about 50 people, was warm. Our twelve-year-old companion promptly started to die of hunger (granola was in the car) and fade with sleepiness (what can you do?). Did I mention that half the room (it seemed) was packed out with media people furiously typing on laptops or adjusting their digital cameras? The white plastic chairs were very uncomfortable for a pregnant lady of thirty-two weeks. We settled in. The local TV people started to interview the audience members. Though I was seated on the inner aisle, I escaped the camera. Jazzy music glazed the room as we waited for the event to begin. And waited. There was a hand lettered sign tacked up behind the podium that read "THE MAC is BACK!"
Soon McCain was introduced and took the stage to applause. He is a compact man. Dressed in a navy suit, maroon sweater vest, and light blue collared shirt, he appeared comfortable. After explaining that they had been delayed in Iowa due to a broken snow plow, he quickly turned over the microphone to Jane Swift, former governor of Massachusetts. She supports McCain due to his views on education and national security.
McCain then spoke for approximately twenty minutes before taking questions from the audience. Though he touched on several topics, he said that the ONE thing that we should remember from the evening is: Al-Qaeda is on the RUN, they are NOT DEFEATED. Iraq may be receding as an issue for voters. It is receding because we are succeeding. YET. He said that we face a "transcendent challenge" these days from radical Islamic terrorism. Case in point, Bhutto's assassination was carried out by those in . . . and here I can't recall exactly how he phrased it, but essentially he linked her death to Al-Qaeda. His response? Military, diplomatic, and ideological. Pakistan is important because it has nuclear weapons and we should respond by 1. Securing those weapons and 2. Securing the election process. Then McCain said that Bhutto had been a "transcendent figure" and that it would be hard to replace her (or something to that effect). Transcendence? Transcendent challenge AND transcendent figure? What? What does he mean by transcendence? Al-Qaedo and Bhutto are transcendent? Que?
Then it was time for questions. What impresses me is that anyone off the street can stand up and ask any question. The Sierra Club asked him about global warming (he prefers "climate change"), a woman asked him about health insurance (he seemed unsure of his answers), another woman asked about America's policy toward promoting condom use in Africa to prevent HIV/AIDs (he blamed corruption in Africa as a reason why we shouldn't send aid), someone asked about how to fund the war in Iraq (no new taxes will be involved). I wanted to ask about education and his stance on reform and No Child Left Behind. I developed a case of bashfulness fueled by chair-weariness and early onset dinner pangs.
It was good to be part of the stump. It was surreal to hear someone stand in front a live audience and say "I should be president because....." I mean, who really says that? It seems like made-for-TV drama material.
This just in: We invited some friends to join us yesterday. They missed the first event, but made it to McCain’s headquarters for a brief meet-and-greet before joining us for dinner. They shook his hand. They just called to let us know they have caught the campaign spirit. They returned to New Hampshire today to shake Bill Clinton’s hand and are hot on trail of events all day long. . .