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Three days in Austin aboard the Obama/Clinton Press Show


by Ethan Persoff, http://www.ep.tc

The following is an eleven page excerpt from a larger work in progress
focusing on the upcoming Presidential election, with an emphasis on Texas and the upcoming brokered National Convention in Denver.

Austin Texas

There's a good scene in the 1932 pre-code film called "DAME'S GOTTA HAVE IT" where a young man wakes up to find his entire neighborhood taken over by movie cameras and weird strangers. The film is great, filmed in that memorable uncensored way with suggestions of dope dealing, sex for money, and even a good unexpected song about truancy. But it's the movie camera scene that I identify with most. At least today, that is. As I'm writing this Austin is filling up with satellite trucks, men in makeup, puffed up state and national representatives and a lot of loud noise. An overhead view at a good enough distance might correctly reduce this to resembling a trail of ants gathered around a nice forthcoming chunk of food. 'The candidates are coming, The candidates are coming..' And the tightest cluster of this movement, at least today, is around the construction of a lot of decorated CNN scenery.

The cause of all this hysteria is the promise of a good fight. Tomorrow is the Austin Democratic Debate between the two remaining legitimate Democrat contenders, Clinton and Obama, and projections already show it to be one of the most anticipated showdowns in recent election history. Great promised theater, at the very least. In fact, with the right equipment one can already hear the announcer barking away:

"DING DING DING, Ladies and Gentlemen. One night from today, and for ONE NIGHT ONLY (at least in this venue) defending champion Baarrraaaack Obama spars off with Henpeckin' Hillary Clinnnnton. There will be smacking of gums. Snarling of words. VERBAL REDACTION! Biting at the air! No blood tonight, ladies and gentlemen, but if Clinton has anything to say there will certainly be TEARS!"....

And what a ticket it has been for Austin to get. It has also resurfaced an all-too present local truth. Despite years of questionably reprehensible government, including wilful corporate pollution to our unique water supply, segregated poverty and neglect of minorities, the loss of land and pensions, you name it, the Obama/Clinton show reminds us once more that what really matters most to many Austinites is getting into a party. About a week ago the Debate was announced to the public and included details that attendance would be by invitation only. Austin is a great city, but it has an ugly side as a town of vanity and self-entitlement, and news of this closed door access was not greeted well. Immediate screams soon flooded every possible local switchboard - Internet, local radio, tv, etc - including mass email calls to Picket The Event solely on this issue alone! (see note below) The most memorable thing I personally heard came when I went out the afternoon of the announcement to get coffee. Many people were outside and talking about the debate in separate groups. A particularly loud and outspoken man reasoned that making the debate 'invitation only' translated to both Obama and Clinton letting down the entire city. He also had some secret information. "Once again it's just for the ELITES and the RICH!" He coughed out to his friends, concluding with this threat, "I'll remember THIS ONE. Yeah man, By not voting!"

That someone is so willing to disempower themselves from one of their LARGEST INDIVIDUAL PRIVILEGES because they can't see a televised event IN PERSON raises an interesting question: What's the big deal?

This question has stayed with me for a few days, leading up as we are, to today. And now with the arrival of media from all around the world I return to the question, What IS the big deal? ... Why do we need to see one or both of these candidates in person, in this competitive venue, and on this day? Is it celebrity, or is it possible one or both of these people actually has a unique magnetism that is drawing us to a person of authentic leadership. Man, decades of properly calibrated cynicism have rusted my head because even typing that feels wrong, and sort of scrapes. But could this actually be possible?

I'm in a convenient place to think about this for the next few days. Like others, I received a message from CNN that media will be accomodated tomorrow during the day of the event, and are invited to tour the debate hall today. This is the day before the debate and not an actual ticket to the debate itself but it'a a nice opportunity to see the rehearsal space and actual set. Besides I'm also sure CNN wants to show it off. The request is to show up at the University of Texas Campus at 2:45. I'm currently running late.


Outside, my favorite truck of the day:

Step right up. Step right up. One and all...
A doorway right into The CBS Eye. No poking.

1) After the initial call for invitation only tickets, bowing to public complaint there was a limited number of tickets (100-200) made available to the public via private raffle. But this required submitting personal information and it can be assumed was also used to research each raffle entrant - securing what was still, ostensibly, a 'by invitation only' affair.