Thursday, July 31, 2008

Barack Obama: Obama Cedar Rapids Liveblog

BaraCOEbama: Obama Cedar Rapids Liveblog

It's 9:59 and I'm in. That took a little longer than it used to back in the caucus days. There was Secret Service presence at Obama events almost from the beginning, but now it's the full, near-presidential drill: the ambulance on standby, the sweep with the portable metal detector (I can never see that without thinking of Harry Shearer in This Is Spinal Tap) -- everything but the military aide carrying the nuclear launch codes. I was worried that the bomb smelling dog would go off on my laptop case, because the cats like to nap in it.

The speech itself isn't scheduled until 11:30. Obama's also supposed to meet with some flood victims but that's closed limited press. Let me set the scene here: 600 or so chairs on the floor and maybe about as much bleacher seating. It'll be the standard TV picture: a backdrop of bleacher people behind the candidate. The podium has the blue sign with the small Obama logo and the ECONOMIC SECURITY slogan we've seen in recent days.

Economy is supposed to be the theme, but maybe we'll get lucky and hear something colorful like the dueling references we heard in Springfield MO yesterday (you can make your own Zell Miller joke.)

10:15 and there's a sudden surge in the pace at which folks are getting admitted. It turns out to be the section of people seated behind Obama in the camera's line of sight -- the chosen backdrop people. A diverse mix of age, gender, race and clothing; maybe a half dozen SEIU tshirts out of 100 or so people. No VIPs that I can recognize from up here in the balcony.

10:38 and I'm back from a walk around the neighborhood. There's a fellow with a very old fashioned looking camera on the stage, complete with a hood over his head. As I chat with some friends, a staffer comes by and explains: "We're going to take a wide shot with a very old kind of camera, so when we announce it you have to kind of sit still."

"If you have a sticker on your ticket, please see the gentleman in the blue shirt," a volunteer says to people on the way in. That leads me to the chosen ones behind the stage. The sticker isn't some sort of hologram, Secret Service issued laminated thing: it's just a tab that you can get at any office supply store in a specific color.

The people in the TV backdrop area start asking me questions before I start asking them questions: "How many rows back can you see on TV? Will I be on TV?" I indicate about rows two through six, and a couple people scrunch in. Turns out there may not be a lot of science to it; one of them notes that she just happened to know one of the local staffers. I note that the folks in row one might not be on TV but have a better shot at a handshake, and a few people seem to be considering which option is the better deal.

There's a second filled-up section that will be visible from a second TV platform directly below me, for the profile view with a crowd off in the distance. The floor seating is about full but only the tele-visible parts of the bleachers are.

The vocal hubbub is louder than the music, though I manage to make out Clapton's "Change The World." They should throw on Tom Petty's "The Waiting" -- you know, the hardest part.

At 10:57 an announcement from the stage; the audio starts out muddy then someone hits a switch and it immediately improves. No big, just the volunteer and absentee ballot pitch. But it's a sign that things are more or less underway, as the off-camera bleachers begin to fill.

Chanting is starting at 11:12 -- the old caucus standard, "I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way" -- and more significantly, some of the local dignitaries are showing up after a very low key meet and greet with the candidate for elected officials.

About half of the press gallery is saved for the Boys On The Bus traveling national press crowd. It's the half closer to the exit -- fast in, fast out. They're arriving at 11:20. All looking very intent, no standing round time to talk to a (shudder) blooger for media-interviews-the-media stories. I know I meant blogger, but I like "blooger." I find myself between Reuters and Ed Tibbets of the Quad City Times.

Running playlist includes "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang, "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers.

Pretty much full at 11:26 except for aisles in the bleachers. Warming up, too. Today is one of those days that's so hot and humid that you never completely dry off after you get out of the shower, and 1000 or so bodies generate some temperature.

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"

"I-O-W-A, Barack Obama All The Way"


AAAND- He's Here. 11:32, right on time.

Half of the local introductory speaker is drowned out up in press row. "When i vote this fall, it'l be the first time in 25 years that I'll vote for a Dem for president."

Obama leads with the flood, natch. "THe commitment I ake to you -- I am going to do everything in my power as a US Senator and hopefully as president to"-- to do something good, because it's drowned out by applause. Emphasized need to make decisions in timely fashion, stronger levees and higher floodwalls.

But immediate relief is not enough -- that provides the transition into the main body of the speech.

"Given the magnitude of our challenges.. you'd think we'd be having a serious debate. But so far, all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton. (appl) I have to ask my opponent - is that the best you can come up with? EVen the media has pointed out that McCain has fallen vback into predictable attacks and demonstrably false statements."

And that's not going to lower your gas prices, bring your job back, etc. "The time for game playing is over."

"We can't afford to let dictators dictate our foreign policy, hold it hostage to our oil addiction."

"While big oil is making record profits, you're paying record places. We can't wait any longer, that's one of the coices we've got in this election."

"Under my opponents plan we pay billions more, we stay in the cycle of oil addiction. We need to fundamentally change."

"We need immediate relief and long term relief." Energy rebate, right now, hundreds of dollars, to help you get through the next few months. My bet is that's the national lede for the day. Longer term: close down oil speculator loopholes.

Increase domestic production where we can -- using existing leases. "WHen they use all those up, then we can start talking about more leases. We need to give them a choice: you use those leases or you lose them." Says it could increase production 75%.

"If I thought we could solve all our problems by opeining up additional areas, then I'd do it." "But the truth is, we can't drill our way out of this problem" because we use 25% of world's supply. "I don't want our children's future dependent on what other coutries do."

Pledges 5 million new green energy jobs. "Not just sort term gimmicks but long term transformation." Double fuel economy in 20 years; McCain has opposed higher mileage.

"I've seen steel mills in PA that were once empty now working again, making wind turbines that you'll use here in Iowa."

"It's too important to be going on the path of least resistance, doing business as usual. It is time for the American people to take control of our destiny again." Gives a shout out to the Feb. `07 Cedar Rapids visit, "our very first campaign stop."

"The cynics said it was a lot of celebrity, a little too much hope. The attacks havent changed much, but the people of Iowa believe the future can be different."


12:04. "We want to spend a little time hearing from you, maybe a half hour, 25 minutes." Q and A time. "I'm fair and impartial, we're gonna go boy girl boy girl."

First questioner: Short term long term economic plans. Obama: Combination of housing and oil means tight credit. "We have to shore up the housing market, not only for families but for the health of the economy." Step two is financial regulation ,particulary predatory loans. Step 3 is energy assistance - gas and heating.

Long term: less dependence on oil. "We have 3% of the world's oil reserves and use 25% of the oil. We can't drill our way out of this. We have to redesign how we use energy, and we can do it." Talks about electric cars that can actually sell power back to the grid. He's out from the podium, walking around.

"Think about what a rejuvenating auto industry would mean to the midwest. Michigan. Ohio. Iowa. Missour-ah." List of states: Yeeeeah!

Second long term step is health care. "I'm going to put forth a plan where evenybody who needs health care can get it, and everybody who gets health care can afford it." Step 3 is infrastructure. "We should plan each and every year. It shouldn't be this random pork barrel process." If people tell you we can't afford it, look at what we're spending in Iraq -- biggest applause yet.

12:17 "I know this is a really long answer but this is a really good question." Step 4 is education and a teacher says "yessss!"

Question two actually IS education, and No Child Left Behind. Obama: "The idea behind No Child Left Behind is the right one, that we have to raise our standards." Schools were designed for the agricultural age and need to adapt. "I'm a big believer in reform, but here's the problem. If you're measuring simply based on one standardized test... I'm reminded of a saying an Iowa farmer said: just weighing the pig doesn't fatten the hog." Teaching to the test, untested subjects pushed out. "I would completely redesign the assessments." Standardized tests OK, but "don't have the entire curriculum based around a standardized test" and the rest of the answer is drowned by applause.

Special ed funding, early child... "the parents have to instill..." and more loud applause. This is like being at the ballgame: it's exciting to be here, but you see and hear it better on TV.

Question three, monetary policy. Obama: turns it toward government fiscal policy and deficit. "I don't think our problem is too much money in the system, our problem is big structural deficits that have to be dealt with." "We're passing off our debt to our children -- that little guy there, yeah, you."

"I don't think we had a choice with Freddie MAc and Fannie Mae. The possibility of a complete loss of confidence in the financial markets was a real possibility."

Roll back tax cuts on wealthiest Americans, finish the war in Iraq, get a handle on health care policy -- all good applause lines in this crowd (which walked in the door mostly pre-persuaded.)

Next question: Education again, more just a statement about parents taking responsibility and talking about her kid. Obama: "I'm gonna call on another woman, because that wasn't really a question." Mostly inaudible except "my husband had diabetes." So let's say health care.

Obama: "If you qualify for medicare you'll continue to get it. If you have a private plan that is working for you, you can keep it, we're going to work with your employer to lower the premiums, as much as $2500 a year. If you don't have insurance... you will be able to buy into a health care plan similar to the one I have as a federal employee." Non-demagogic wording - he says 'federal employee' instad of 'membeof Congress.' "We will have a staggered subsidy system." Then he moves to preventive diabetes care, HE must have heard the question.

Last question. Job outsourcing, NAFTA, and a nibble at immigration. Obama: "The conomy has changed, it's global, and some of that is not going to change." "But we CAN say, we're not going to give you tax incentives," we can make sure trade agreements are fair and reciprocal with labor and health standards. Immigration: "When it comes to legal immigration, there should be a certification. If an American can do it companies shuld not be able to hire." But there are specialties with shortages. "Fair, less bureaucrtic, faster." As for illegal, he emphasized employer sanctions. "But for people who came here illegally but nor have roots here, kids in school, we have to get them out of the shadows" with a path to citizenship. "Try to hang on to the jobs we've got but try to create the jobs of the future." Which returns him to the energy economy Theme Of The Day. "Those jobs can't be outsourced. Those windmills? You've got to put`em up right here."

"Most Americans know in their gut that we've got to change - even my Republican opponent. The reason they spend all their time taling about me, is they jsut don't have any new ideas." "All you do is replace the name every four years. He's too liberal, he's gonna raise your taxes. But people know this election is different."

"What is risky: Taking a chance on change, or making the same mistakes again?" And that's what he leaves us with at 12:41.

The music is Springsteen's "The Rising," which Edwards used at caucus time, but actually had integrated into a "rise up" cadence at the end of the speech. Then the old Obama standby "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Someone in the handshake scrum is actually wearing a Joe Biden tshirt. Is that a plug for the VP? The names we keep hearing are Kaine, Sebelius, Bayh... but he said nothing on that subject, and wasn't going to roll that one out in Cedar Rapids anyway.

Most of the crowd heads out the door -- I wonder if, being Iowans, the handshake scrum is less intense because we had so many chances before? The more diligent volunteers are folding the chairs at 12:51, even as Obama still shakes hands, Most of the national traveling press is still in their seats, writing.

12:54 and he's out the door, as the stragglers quickly head to the exits. No further news here; let's call it an afternoon.

1 comment:

noneed4thneed said...

Once again a great job with the liveblog. Obama should have played the song Celebrity by Brad Paisley which makes fun of the celebrity status the media swoons over.

When he talked about the wind turbines that will be used in Iowa, he also mentioned North Dakota and South Dakota, two red states that he hopes to over perform in and possibly win.