Obama at IMU 10/3/07
Greetings from campus and I'm finally on the air. To my great shame I had to get the resident techie to (ouch) HELP me with the wifi.
Mayor Ross Wilburn just did his Obama bit and is announcing technical difficulties with the music. A seasoned local politico puts a bug in my ear that Jean Lloyd-Jones, former Iowa City state senator and '92 Grassley opponent, is getting on board with Barack today. I'm surprised, I was betting if anyone was a Hillary person it would be Jean.
IMU second floor ballroom is full as the music is fixed and it's the standard Obama playlist, Jackie Wilson, "Shout," James Brown (owww!). From an iPod not a CD, we are in the 21st century after all.
Scattered national press corps here but it looks like the big Iowa story was yesterday. I'm kind of on "liberate Poland" patrol here, just in case anything happens.
They laid out the ballroom the long way and the built in stage is being used as seating rather than as a stage. Everyone else here at Print Table seems to be having wifi issues so I feel less stupid now.
Crowd is a student/faculty/staff mix, older than I expected for mid-day on campus. Things are now officialy a little behind schedule as we get... Garth Brooks? What is he doing these days anyway? Ever gonna make that Chris Gaines movie? Still, that's better than "Change The World," which may have on message lyrics but is an energy killer and easily the wimpiest thing Eric Clapton ever recorded, including the watered down unplugged "Layla" that clearly inspired it.
11:12 and we have a warmup speaker. Based on the intro it sounds like we're continuing the foreign policy theme today, fifth anniversary of the war vote, etc. Wifi is still iffy and... here he is. Props to da mayor and to Atul Nakhasi of the UDems, who got a nice writeup in the Wall Street Journal today... and to local staffers Lindsey Scola and Chris Liddell-Westefeld.
First we're gonna get the speech, then the Q and A. The speech starts with a longer version of "I was against this war before it started."
"Some choose to rewrite history" and say they were voting for inspectors not war. (Doesn't name names, we all get it.) 'The right person to end it is someone who opposed it from the beginning." (Applause line) Pledges immediate start to withdrawal, 1-2 brigades a month, done within 16 months, but leaves room for residual force.
Blackwater bashing ensues. Talks about his pending legislation and plans, but let's hear the "as president I will" version. Baby cries, he quips "he's outraged, too, I know." "When contractors break the law they will be prosecuted" gets applause.
"Turn the page" theme comes up again as the speech's organizational structural device. Is Bob Seger getting royalties? "Make diplomacy a top priority" gets applause. This is a Serious Speech, not a Fire It Up! Ready to Go! moment. OK, now we get "when I am president" and "Obama administration" references as he Assumes The Mantle. "We will reject torture without exception" gets applause that continues and drowns out following lines, as "Guantanamo" and "habeas corpus" leap out through the clapping.
11:39 speech proper wraps. First question is from Iowans for Sensible Priorities -- which he acknowledges. "You guys have been at every town hall meeting in every state, and I've answered this question about 15 times." (He might have said 50.) He's stepped out from behind the podium to answer, but staying in the front behind the rope line. Gets applause for "vet's needs."
What's most effective way to use $ for humanitarian needs? Obama: "Democracy is important, but only if we build a civil infrastructure behind it." Scattered annoying cell phone rings... "The best indicator of how a country is going to develop is how it treats its girls and women" gets big big applause, and he would tie education aid to gender equity.
African-American incarceration rate, from a young black woman who identifies herself as from Chicago. Obama: I discussed this at Howard U. last week, drops the url, "it's a pretty good speech." Cites Jena, different sentences for same crimes. "There is some injustice in the system." A president can shine a light on this problem. Turns it to early childhood education, etc. etc. Prison as "a master's degree in crime."
Next questioner is uncertain he's been called on. How can you unify country on wedge issues? (What an on-message softball!) I snap pictures while he reiterates the rationale for the candidacy. He also takes the opportunity to drop in health care. Bottom line on the wedge issues is find the areas of agreement (but acknowedges that may be hard with gay mariage). "If we can get a 60% majority on these issues we can get something done."
Last one, he says. Another Illinois kid. "The last president from Illinois turned out pretty good," says Obama to laughs. "Though they said he didn't have much experience." Asked about policy on chasing bin Laden into Pakistan. He jokes but says he's been misquoted, says he's not "invading Pakistan." Calls for Muslim world summit "that I would lead," gets applause. "The day I am inaugurated, the world looks at America differently" gets cheers and whoops, and he ends on that note.
Overall, more serious, less rah-rah than other times I've seen him, though one young man just walked by hollering "I did it! I touched him!" This was an event to persuade, rather than to rally the troops.