Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fred, Fried Chicken and a Lie Pie for dessert

Fred Thompson hasn't been to Iowa much during this presidential campaign. Let's face it, he hasn't been a candidate for all that long. So tonight, when he's supposed to work the room before about 850 Iowans of faith, it piqued our interest. Thompson is a guy who's been married...twice. He's admitted he doesn't usually go to church. And he's refused to back that federal amendment to ban gay marriage. So obviously, when he decided to go to the annual banquet of the Iowa Christian Alliance, we were curious.

Thompson arrived at 5pm. The cameras followed him around the room while he introduced his wife and their daughter. (one humorous moment...when one older man, perhaps, about Thompson's age--he's 65--met Thompson's wife, Jeri--she turns 41 on Sunday--he listened as Jeri said, "I'm his wife, Jeri." That's when the older man said, "really?" I digress...

Anyway, the Thompsons sat down at a table while they listened to a man sing "God Bless the USA" (the singer seemed to be about a second behind the music, but, again, I digress."

A Thompson staffer pulled me aside to say Thompson would take questions outside the building later, so he wouldn't disturb the dinner guests inside. So we waited...about an hour, while Thompson stood in the receiving line and shook people's hands as they waited to get their plates of fried chicken, really thick mashed potatoes and green beans. Then it looked like it was our chance. Thompson made his way to the door...the bathroom door. Oops. We all followed, well all the way to the bathroom.

Then, we followed him after he left the bathroom. Perhaps, this was our chance. Nope, he made his way back to his table. Then, he turned around and went outside. Now, it was our chance to get all those faith questions answered. Thompson walked outside...and then walked into the SUV waiting for him. Then, he left. Another staffer said there would be plenty of time for questions during the rest of the trip. Will there or is that another slice of lie pie?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hillary's Health

We're just waiting for Hillary Clinton to show up here at what's supposed to be the unveiling of her health care plan at Broadlawn's in Des Moines. The room is packed, not just from the people. It's stuffy. Stuffed and stuffy, actually. The campaign has wall-sized backdrops, surely for the benefit of the tv cameras.

The Senator is late arriving. She almost always is. Although she is coming from Chicago. She left Senator Tom Harkin's Steak Fry nearby in Indianola late yesterday to fly to Chicago last night. Then she flies back to Des Moines. Such is the life of a major candidate. They don't want to waste time. Well, they don't want to waste the candidate's time.

While I'm waiting, some final thoughts on the Steak Fry. Obama, Edwards and Clinton clearly had a huge numbers advantage. They had way more supporters down in front of the stage. Obama's camp claims 3,000. I haven't heard numbers from others.

When Clinton finished speaking, hundreds, if not more, of her people moved out from in front. Same thing when Obama and Edwards finished. Richardson followed Obama. Dodd followed Clinton. Biden followed Edwards. I wonder what was going through their minds as they watched so many people leave as they got ready to speak? How can that not be deflating this late in the campaign?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Final Fry Thoughts

This is Jarrett again – Dave’s partner in Iowa caucus crime.

Just a few final thoughts on today’s political beef feast…

As the event was wrapping up it was announced a record attendance of about 12,000 had been set. A quick glance over a thank-you message posted on the host’s website,, reads, “more than 18,000 people gathered at the Indianola balloon field.” If that total from Harkin’s website is correct, the population of Indianola (about 13,000) was easily doubled this afternoon. (We’ll have to check on that one tomorrow). I’m sure those inching along in their cars outside Indianola would surely believe it after they found themselves only covering a few miles over the span of a half hour on their way to today’s hillside BBQ.

Of course aside from presidential politics, food was a definite focus today – and I should have eaten some. Running on a biscuit and a large iced coffee from nine in the morning clearly didn’t suffice as I found myself drained mid-afternoon just as the crowd began its exodus and the final candidate (Sen. Joe Biden) took the stage. Dave, on the other hand, took advantage of the “media rate steak” over the noon hour. He usually eats afterwards. Here’s his culinary review from an earlier post:

“The steak was o.k., I guess. You can’t expect too much more when they have to prepare thousands of them. I’ll still take my Dad’s.”

Now back to Biden. It’s unfortunate for the senior senator that he drew the short straw on the speaking order. There were two noticeable crowd-thinning occasions. The first came after Hillary Clinton spoke and the other when John Edwards (who was second to last) concluded. Batting cleanup, Biden said, “I apologize that I’m the last speaker you have to hear and for being as serious as I’m about to be.” Biden went on to briefly touch on just a few issues and focused on his plan in Iraq which involves dissolving its central government and splitting the country into three separate self-governing regions.

Finally, Sen. Hillary Clinton was sure to put in a plug during her speech for tomorrow’s “major” policy announcement where she is expected to unveil a detailed plan for universal health care.

More on that tomorrow.

Steak Fry Speeches, Part 2

Enter Edwards.

Edwards talking about that all-too-familiar theme -- change.

"We need universal heath care."

Edwards talking about standing up to lobbyists.

"Don't believe you can bring about change... without standing up to them."

Edwards discussing the health care story about James...

"When are we ever going to stand up to the health care companies and their lobbyists in Washington?"

"Lord knows we need a democrat in the White House."

"90-100 billion dollars a year" to pay for universal health care under Edwards plan, he says.

"It ain't cheap."

Edwards now talking about alternative energy... "It's time to be patriotic about something other than war. It is time -- time for us to sacrifice."

"We need YOU to bring about change."

Onto economic issues... Minimum wage must be at least $9/hr.

Make it easier to join a union and be able to walk the picket line without having fear of losing your job.

"Need to set a timetable. No timetable. No funding"

Now Edwards is quieting the crowd...

"You're going to be able to look us in the eye and trust us. We desperately need to restore trust in the presidency."

"When you make that decision do one thing: trust your heart."

"God bless you all... Let's make this a historic year for America."

Enter Biden.

Thank-yous... "No matter who you're for you're always gracious."

"I apologize... I'm the last speaker you have to hear."

(Lots of people are heading out of the balloon field -- dinner plans already?)

Biden hitting on the Iraq situation and being critical of President Bush.

"How many more deaths?"

"I have a plan." Start bringing troops home. Iraq is incapable of having a central government... Need three regions.

"We better tell the truth."

"We share common goals (issues): universal health care, education, energy security, global warming."

"Public funding can end this obscene amount of money being spent (on elections)."

"God bless America and God bless our troops."

Exit Biden.

Enter Harkin for ending thank-yous.

So long for now...

"Ready to Kick Some Elephant"

Today's steak fry host and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin just took the stage and gave a full round of thank-yous... "We're ready to kick some elephant!" said Harkin to a loud roar from the crowd.

Harkin says that the only way of getting out of Iraq is to elect a democratic president. Harkin briefly touched on a few other issues.

"Now let's hear from the next president of the United States," Harkin said (This statement may have been confused as an endorsement for speaker number one, Barack Obama? Harkin said the speaking order had been drawn out of a hat.

Enter Obama.

"The American people are not the problem, the American people are the answer."

Barack is discussing the Constitution now and hitting on economics and, of course, the war...

"Change in America is going to begin when we get Bush and Cheney out of office."

Obama says we've been spending decades discussing issues like universal heath care and independence on foreign oil, but now we need to have "fundamental change."

Obama is now talking about having "common experience" and saying he had confidence to stand up against the war when he knew it was wrong.

He says he'll bring "change." (A theme common to several campaigns).

[Some technical problems here in the press room. Sorry for the break]

Enter Richardson

[Back online. Jumping into speech mid-way]

Reduce green house gases...

"Al Gore was right, we just hope he doesn't get into the race," said Richardson.

I'll have a Teacher as Sec. of Ed.; Union member as Sec. of Labor.

"I want to earn your vote."

"Are you ready to take your country back?!"

Enter Clinton.

"Good afternoon Iowa!"

Clinton is recollecting a movie with "glorious corn fields" -- "If you build it they will come!"
(I need not remind all of you what movie this is.)

Clinton is going over a list of issues: Iraq, health care, ... "Are you ready for change?" Clinton said. (Change, where did we hear that? Hmm.)

"We've got to get back to diplomacy," Clinton says.

Clinton is now getting back to health care - specifically veterans... "How have we come to the point that even our veterans are becoming invisible?" (Those 'invisibles' - a common Clinton theme.)

"Three things we have to do: get costs down, quality up, and cover every single person."

She's now teasing her press conference on Monday where her campaign says she will make a "major" policy announcement in regards to health care.

Clinton is reminiscing about her work on health care for children.

Clinton's asking people to support the campaign, to endorse her, and "restore America's greatness."

"I know we can do this together and I'm ready to lead!"

Clinton exits to loud "Hillary" cheers.

Enter Dodd.

"You are showing great patience in Iowa."

Dodd is ALSO referencing that famous Iowa baseball movie starring that Dancing With Wolves actor (oh, what's his name?).

"Is this heaven, no it's Iowa!"

Dodd is now name-dropping. A few: Former Iowa Senator John Culver, Congressmen Berkley Bedell and Mike Blouin; current Congressmen Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley; and also, of course, steak fry host Sen. Tom Harkin.

Dodd is reciting the things he worked on with Harkin in the Senate. "Thank you Iowa for giving us Tom Harkin!"

Dodd is recollecting his lunch menu from last month's state fair. "I had no idea there was a fried twinkie and a fried oreo..."

Now getting serious again.

"I'm angry about what has happened over the last six years."

Dodd is citing his service in the peace corps 40 years ago.

"I'm standing before you today in Iowa as a presidential candidate because I want my country to have a better future."

Dodd is joking about his age (he's 63) and the fact that he has a daughter who's age is in the single digits... His AARP and diapers joke.

"The answers to these issues will not just take one person. It will take the entire party."

Dodd touting his work passing the Family Medical Leave Act.

"Very first thing I'll do is restore the Constitution of the United States."

Dodd says the first thing a president should do is to "keep us safe."

Dodd says we need the leadership in the country like there was during the JFK era.

"We have great democratic candidates but we need to work together as a democratic party."

After the Inauguration, "All 12,000 of you are invited to spend the night in the White House."

Posting... Be back.

Steaking a Spot

I don't know if the weather could be better. It's about 75 and sunny here at Tom Harkin's Steak Fry in Indianola. So much better than four years ago during the monsoon. That was the last time we had a full slate of prez candidates. Bill Clinton also came. It rained like crazy that day. People were falling down the muddy hillside. When Clinton came out to speak, the rain stopped. And the sun came out. Or maybe that was a movie I saw.
I just about got run over by Obama's throng of supporters following him in. The campaign is claiming about 3,000 followers. Harkin's people are hoping for 8 to 10,000 overall. Quite a percentage. John Edwards' airplane just flew over. Well, it's not his plane. But it's a plane pulling a banner with his name. I wonder what that costs? I wonder how many people are looking at the skies?
I ate for the first time here. Usually I wait til afterwards. The steak was o.k., I guess. You can't expect too much more when they have to prepare thousands of them. I'll still take my Dad's.
I wonder what Dennis Kucinich would eat here at the Steak Fry? He wasn't invited. And apparently isn't happy about it. I don't remember the last time he actually campaigned here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Surrender, McCain Apologizes, Gets Help with BBQ Bills

Never Surrender

It's a good thing it wasn't hot outside. John McCain's "No surrender" bus pulled in at 1:21pm by my watch. His event at the AmVets 2 Post in Des Moines was supposed to start at noon. McCain blamed the bus driver's wrong turns for the delay. In fact, I counted at least four apologies from him by the end of his appearance. I don't recall rival, Rudy Giuliani, ever saying he was sorry for making people wait at least an hour for what I think was his first visit to Des Moines as an official candidate for prez.

McCain seemed to make a bit of news during his stop. He promised he would catch Osama bin Laden, unlike President Bush, although he wouldn't say how he would do it. He said he doesn't want bin Laden to know his plans. That's why he said he can't say how he would catch him. He also called on the dems to denounce that "General Betray Us" ad by I haven't seen statements from any dems so far on this.

McCain's money problems have been well-documented over this campaign. We stumbled upon some help for him. A Vietnam War veteran, Lee Booton of Ankeny, manned the barbecue outside AmVets Post 2.
Lee told me the vets got together to donate their time and 260 pounds of chicken, 5 gallons of cole slaw, 8 gallons of potato salad and 4 gallons of beans. He said they did it all for less than $200 and fed nearly 250 people. Why? Lee told me, "He (McCain) is the guy who knows more than anyone else in there. I trust him because of his knowledge of what he's gone through. I mean, you spend six years as a P.O.W. See how you like it." He added, "See that (the flag of the U.S. Navy) flag? Navy brothers stick together."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Op-Edin' for a Better Seat

Bill Richardson's been looking for a better seat at the table. He's 4th in most of the Iowa polls I've seen. He's looking to knock off at least 1 of the 3 dems above him on Caucus night. And unlike the 3 above him (except for Edwards sometimes), he's getting a little "specifically aggressive". He's going after other candidates. But unlike what Clinton and Obama seem to do, Richardson is criticizing/comparing/challenging the others by actually saying their names, instead of making the media try to figure out which opponents they mean.

Here's his op-ed piece in today's Washington Post

Why We Should Exit Iraq Now

By Bill Richardson

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly.

In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years -- a tragic mistake.

Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be "irresponsible." On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal -- not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process -- would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

Those who think we need to keep troops in Iraq misunderstand the Middle East. I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein. I am convinced that only a complete withdrawal can sufficiently shift the politics of Iraq and its neighbors to break the deadlock that has been killing so many people for so long.

Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else's civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq's oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border -- not in Iraq.

Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a second route out through Turkey.

As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage. Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers. Iraq's neighbors will face the reality that if they don't help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq's collapse -- including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.

The United States can facilitate Iraqi reconciliation and regional cooperation by holding a conference similar to that which brought peace to Bosnia. We will need regional security negotiations among all of Iraq's neighbors and discussions of donations from wealthy nations -- including oil-rich Muslim countries -- to help rebuild Iraq. None of this can happen until we remove the biggest obstacle to diplomacy: the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

My plan is realistic because:

It is less risky. Leaving forces behind leaves them vulnerable. Would we need another surge to protect them?

It gets our troops out of the quagmire and strengthens us for our real challenges. It is foolish to think that 20,000 to 75,000 troops could bring peace to Iraq when 160,000 have not. We need to get our troops out of the crossfire in Iraq so that we can defeat the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.

By hastening the peace process, the likelihood of prolonged bloodshed is reduced. President Richard Nixon withdrew U.S. forces slowly from Vietnam -- with disastrous consequences. Over the seven years it took to get our troops out, 21,000 more Americans and perhaps a million Vietnamese, mostly civilians, died. All this death and destruction accomplished nothing -- the communists took over as soon as we left.

My position has been clear since I entered this race: Remove all the troops and launch energetic diplomatic efforts in Iraq and internationally to bring stability. If Congress fails to end this war, I will remove all troops without delay, and without hesitation, beginning on my first day in office.

Let's stop pretending that all Democratic plans are similar. The American people deserve precise answers from anyone who would be commander in chief. How many troops would you leave in Iraq? For how long? To do what, exactly? And the media should be asking these questions of the candidates, rather than allowing them to continue saying, "We are against the war . . . but please don't read the small print."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Clinton Overpowering Fair Turbine

I thought it sounded wrong, but I wasn't quite sure at first...