Monday, April 23, 2007

Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner Wrap Up

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 638

As promised, I was at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner Friday night. In a lot of ways, this was the quintessential Iowa caucus campaign event: held at the state fair grounds, in that building past the 4H Hall and right next to the horse corral; where you park your car in the dirt parking lot and trade waves with the guy in the truck who just pullled out to make room for you; where you sit down with about a thousand other people at long tables to eat 2 inch-thick pork chops, boiled vegatables and defrosted Sarah Lee desserts; where the candidates walk in, stroll among the tables like troubadors, and shoot off a couple of jokes with each other while standing off to the side of the stage awaiting their turn at the rostrum. Nothing else quite like it anywhere.

The event actually starts even before you walk into the hall. Lining the sidewalk leading up to the door is a gauntlet of volunteers for the various candidates, all waving signs and chanting slogans in turn for their chosen one, all in the best of humors, and all, seemingly, having the time of their lives.

Once inside, it's grab a paper plate, pile on the food and find a seat as close to the stage as possible (not easy, as the all the closest tables had been reserved by a single person or group for their own people), and start working the room, finishing dinner in between hand shakes and back slaps. I got a chance to talk with Leonard Boswell, member of Congress for my district, about whether he has taken a position on the Common Sense Budget Act of 2007 (H.R. 1702) , which would take some $60 billion allocated to obsolete cold war-era weapons systems and readirect that amount toward education, children's healthcare, etc.; Boswell expressed qualified support, but said he wanted to see some changes, like taking some of the money to replace equipment lost in Iraq.

I also got a chance to chat with Bill Richardson about his recent successful trip to North Korea, which he summarized by saying, "Yeah, that was a good trip. We got things done."

There was also a brief handshake with Joe Biden, but he was so intent on covering the entire crowd that I didn't get a chance to chat with him. Maybe next time.

Then came speech time. Congressman Boswell ascended the rostrum to address the gathering on how exciting the first three months of being in the majority have been, noting, among other things that, "we found out that on our voting consols there were some green buttons [for voting 'Yea']." Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were represented by surrogates, none of whom, I have to say, did their principals much credit; surrogates can only say, "Here's why I support my candidate," whereas the candidates can speak firsthand about why they should be president and what it is they would do in office. There's really no comparison, and candidates who pass up these types of events (especially Clinton and Obama, who were coming to the state the next day, anyway) really do themselves a disservice.

The candidate speeches were supposed to be limited to 10 minutes, but averaged closer to 17 minutes. In order to keep from turning this post into a Tolstoy-scale epic, I'll present each speech in separate posts:
Bill Richardson
John Edwards
Joe Biden

Finally, here are links to some of the mainstream media's coverage of the event:
Des Moines Register


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