The Governor’s Visit, Revisited
Well, I did indeed go see Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack (soon to be former Governor of Iowa) speak at the Elk’s club last night. As I suspected, I ended up standing quietly in a corner, not asking questions (I’m shy, you know). But I do have a few observations…
The first thing I noticed is that there were a LOT more people at this event than there were when Senator Joe Biden visited town a few months ago. I kinda thought there would be twenty-five or thirty people there last night, but I’d estimate somewhere between 150 and 175 people were there. Volunteers were taken by surprise, too – there weren’t enough chairs (which is why I stood in the back). For the first half-hour I was there I kept myself entertained by watching some poor lad scurrying around trying to find chairs for people, and watching the news people twitch and stare at their watches.
And they had plenty of time to twitch and tap at their watches — the governor was at least half an hour late. That, coupled with the lack of seating, gave me a bad impression from the start.
Mr. Vilsack was introduced by prominent local politicians, but as there was no sound system I couldn’t really hear what they said. But when Mr. Vilsack started his speech I could hear him fairly well. Mr. Vilsack came across as a polished public speaker. He didn’t use notes or anything like that, there weren’t any “um, er…” moments, and he addressed the audience well.
As I expected, he spoke in generalities and gave an upbeat message. He did have a few specific ideas, mostly in the area of alternative energy. Oddly enough, that topic came up from an oblique source… After a short discussion on environmentalism, a man in the audience asked Mr. Vilsack if America is going to switch from a petroleum-based economy to an ethanol-based economy, how are we going to keep the farmers from planting “from fence to fence.” (It’s a common joke in this area that the farmers plant their crops with one tractor tire in the ditch, meaning that they use every available scrap of land possible, leaving no habitat for wildlife.) Mr. Vilsack responded by saying he was in favor of using switch grass instead of corn to make ethanol, and he had several nifty facts and figures to back up his proposal. He never did address the man’s question, though… As most politicians, Mr. Vilsack was adept at working a question around to an answer he wants to give. In other words, he wanted to talk about switch grass, so the first agricultural question that came his way had switch grass as the answer.
When asked about immigration, Mr. Vilsack’s reply was pretty middle-of-the-roadish. “I don’t have any five-second sound bite for this,” he said. “It’s a serious issue.” He thinks illegal immigrants should be fined, pay any back taxes they owe, learn English, then they’ll be eligible for citizenship.
There were no startling statements about Iraq, either. He wants to pull the majority of the troops out, leaving a force in northern Iraq. He feels there’s a “culture of dependency” in Iraq, meaning that the Iraqi people are depending too much on America to pull their cookies out of the fire, and that the Iraqis should be pulling their own cookies out. (I’m not sure how much I agree with that… We did, after all, toss those cookies into the fire to begin with. Granted, we’ve been teaching cookie extraction to the Iraqis for the past four years or so, but…)
All in all, Mr. Vilsack handled himself well, but he didn’t really offer any new ideas. I was hoping to hear him say, “The problem with Iraq is that there’s no clearly defined goal. If elected President, I would state our goal and aim in Iraq, then let the military handle it as they’re trained to do.” But he didn’t. He said the war was a mistake. We know that already… He said the war is costing us money. We know, we know. He said a lot of things that we already know, and he got applause for saying those things. (A man asked Mr. Vilsack why we can’t take a percentage of Iraqi oil sales in return for the nearly $1 trillion we’ve spent on the region thus far. Mr. Vilsack said that he’d be in favor of looking into finding out where our money has gone. Well, other than the Bush administration, who isn’t in favor of finding out where our money has gone?)
The audience seemed to have a lot more questions, but I guess Mr. Vilsack had to get to his next engagement and cut the meeting a bit short.
When the meeting broke up, I did a once-through of the parking lot. The only vehicle from Polk County was a big honkin’ Chevy Equinox SUV. I looked it up – it gets 21 miles per gallon. I was really hoping to see Mr. Vilsack get into a hybrid or E85 car. To his credit, though, I read an article saying he recently got rid of his 13 mpg GMC Yukon.
My overall impression? Not bad… I didn’t leave the meeting feeling particularly inspired or hopeful, though. Hopefully I haven’t misquoted or misrepresented anything Mr. Vilsack said. If anyone who was at the meeting has other impressions, I’d be happy to hear ’em!
Has Mr. Bush Learned Anything?
Oh my… I just heard that United States President George W. Bush has just announced that the government now has the right to open anyone’s mail at any time with no warrant. Did he not hear us when we voted last November? Does he not know that we’re a little tired of him taking our freedoms away, bit by bit, in the name of security? I don’t like this. I don’t like this one bit.
Even though our military leaders are against it, President Bush’s advisers are against it, the public is against it, and the soldiers themselves are against it, Mr. Bush is going ahead with his “troop surge” in Iraq. Instead of letting the military run the war, Mr. Bush is going to put more of our troops in harm’s way in spite of the generals’ protests. Not enough troops to make a difference, in my opinion, just enough to make us a bigger target.
A Philosophy of Chairs
Back in the day, they used to tell us to “never have too many chairs.” Too many chairs instantly results in news reports including the phrase a disappointing turnout. Conversely, not having enough chairs was assumed to help create excitement, build enthusiasm, and convey a sense of something important happening.
I can understand that, and it IS a sound marketing philosophy… But I was disappointed that they left little old ladies standing for quite a while while they tried to round up more chairs. And they truly did run out – quite a few people were left standing, mostly in the entryway where they couldn’t really see or hear what was going on. I kept waiting for someone to get a key to the back room to see if there were more chairs hidden away somewhere… I thought one old gent was gonna keel over at any moment.
I guess it just felt a little disorganized is all.
I think that you were probably right about them being surprised about the turnout. Usually for community gatherings like this, particularly this early in the campaign season, expecting a maximum of 75 people is probably a good plan. But when 175 show up, I would have been amazed as well. I think it shows that a lot more people are interested in the race, and in Vilsack, already and that he should continue to extend his meeting times with those folks as well as prepare for more and bigger crowds.
As for specific policy issues, it would be hard for me to believe the details that you kind of desired this early on because I think there are very few candidates who would be ready — a year out from the caucuses — to over some distinct policy. Then again, I could just be young and naive. 😉
Anyway, great post, Chris!
I am still new to this blogging thing, so I don’t know if it is PC to comment on old blogs, but I am one of the lucky ones that GW has decided to read my emails. I love getting those emails from hotmail… “your message has been delayed. No need to resend your original message, it will be delivered shortly.” or some such. And only the emails that go to my BFF in the UK get this lovely message.
It gives me such warm fuzzies about our astute leaders, to be sure. She thinks I am nuts for being upset about it, but then the citizens of the UK gave up all rights to privacy a loooong time ago. It is nothing to her.