Excerpt: Page Ten of Eleven
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Three days in Austin aboard the Obama/Clinton Press Show
DEBATE PREPARATIONS - THE FIGHT ITSELF - SECRET SERVICE - CHEAP DEODORANT - BAG SEARCHES - AND BEHIND THE GATES AT THE OBAMA RALLY
by Ethan Persoff, http://www.ep.tc
And Now: THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATE
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.
Man, after ALL this anticipation, ALL this pre-fight excitement, all this EVERYTHING that has surrounded the importance of winning Texas.... Anyway, you can feel the collective attention of the room waiting for the opening question. It's the first move that's one of the most analyzed, and one of the most important, like a opening kick. We are told by Campbell Brown (the CNN moderator) that a pre-debate drawing has been awarded to Mr Obama and that he has opted to let Mrs Clinton go first. An interesting move. Anyone who has ever watched Clinton speak knows that seduction is not her strongest asset, and she's her worst when she has nothing to react against. Predictably, her worst animatronic qualities immediately boil up to the surface. It's Howdy Doody Time.
Clinton's eyes go wide and there's that dopey practiced head tilt while she breathes in air. A hand appears behind her, pulling back a string attached to her back. You hear the wind of the chord and a release, and the familiar aluminum-can voice begins grinding out one long pre-recorded statement full of checklisted names and references:
WELL THANK YOU AND I AM DELIGHTED TO BE BACK HERE IN AUSTIN (check) 36 YEARS AGO I CAME TO AUSTIN (second reference) FOR MY FIRST POLITICAL JOB (check check check) AND THAT WAS REGISTERING VOTERS (check) IN SOUTH TEXAS (check) AND I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF LIVING FOR A WHILE IN AUSTIN (third reference -2) AND IN SAN ANTONIO (ethnic vote, check check check) AND MEETING PEOPLE AND MAKING FRIENDS (short term likability, check) THAT HAVE STAYED WITH ME FOR A LIFETIME (longterm likability, check) AND I FOUND THAT WE HAD A LOT IN COMMON A LOT OF SHARED VALUES (check) .. AMONG THE PEOPLE WHOM I GOT TO KNOW [was] BARBARA JORDAN (check check check +2) WHO TAUGHT ME A LOT ABOUT COURAGE (can learn about courage, check)
Sixteen points, not bad. The crowd applauds. She's also stopped talking. Incredible, A concise introduction. She must have paid for some good coaching. No, wait, it isn't a finish. The MADE IN CHINA lead-coated voicebox has just jammed. An aid comes up on stage and knocks her head with a loud metal slapping thud. Eyes wide open and spinning with that permanent detached grin, Howdy Doody Clinton bounces back up with:
(whirrrrrr) AAAAAAND TOODAY WOULD ACTUALLY BE HER BIRTHDAY! I REMEMBER ALL THE TIME ABOUT HOW SHE GOT UP EVERY SINGLE MORNING FACING ALMOST INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS, TO DO WHAT SHE DID. AND ANOTHER WAS MY GREAT FRIEND ANN RICHARDS!, WHO TAUGHT ME SO MUCH ABOUT DETERMINATION........
Wait, this can't be a mechanical puppet. It's too conniving. Is Hillary Clinton a real human? Is this possible. It has to be. The double gunning namedrop of Texas Democratic royalty Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan just blows me away in its calculation, especially since these are OPENING REMARKS to WIN THE STATE OF TEXAS. Anyway, two hundred and forty five minutes later she concludes her opening statement:
SOMETHING SOMETHING HEALTH CARE SOMETHING SOMETHING RACE.
THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH. Bzzt! (smoke.....) Pop.
Final score is still getting tabulated by judges, who need to be jostled awake. What? Is it morning? No wait, it just feels like it. Thank god for this tremendously great reporter coffee. I nearly succumbed to the coma inducing Hill-a-RAY. Now it's Barack's turn.
BROWN: SENATOR OBAMA?
OBAMA: FIRST OF ALL, THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS FOR HOSTING US, AND IT'S A GREAT HONOR TO SHARE THE STAGE ONCE AGAIN WITH SENATOR CLINTON. I'VE SAID BEFORE THAT WE'VE BEEN FRIENDS BEFORE THIS CAMPAIGN STARTED; WE'LL BE FRIENDS AFTERWARDS, UNIFIED TO BRING ABOUT CHANGES IN THIS COUNTRY....
I'm going to be unfair to Clinton here by not scrutinizing Obama's remarks, because right there in his opening exchange a key difference is indicated. And it explains his interest in letting her go first. I jot down on my notes 'thanked others before talking about self'.
And really, isn't that nice? No 'best answer syndrome' here. It doesn't feel hyper edited, just a nice conversational sort of thing. And in its casual presence it suggests much more preparation and pre-game homework. That's the big difference between Obama and Clinton. The appearance of natural craftsmanship versus a lawyer screeching at a jury. Clinton's comments always feel like an overcooked rotisserie of purchased research data and keywords. It's as if, at the core of everything, she's most interested in achieving a high Google ranking for her blog.
Now, I'm not stupid. I know Obama rips off Martin Luther King, and is just as contrived in referring to his past thug life on Chicago streets, herding goats. I'm also very aware Obama is just as much a politician. And shit, who knows, he might even be less honest - but his statements fucking feel human. And you know, that's all I'm asking for. At the end of the day, and at this desperate time in history, I just want someone who I like and feel I can get along with, especially if the key responsibility of the next president is in healing our torn ties with the rest of the world. Call me an ass but I'm just wanting the least shrill most linguistically skilled person for the job.
And to this end, there's the constant unfixable problem about the way Clinton talks. Constant co-opting of people, places, times in history, and ESPECIALLY other people's experiences. squak squak squak. Why all this posing? I flinch up every time she starts any sentence with "you know, I was .." because it means HERE COMES ANOTHER CO-OPT. The places she's driven through, the names of others, etc. But it's always all about herself, what they did for her, what she took from them. A constant ring of 'she vouched for me' 'he vouched for me' 'VOUCH FOR ME' - Obama does this too, of course, but there's something so oddly mechanical about Clinton's manner that actually forces your attention much more to it. Did you even notice her ownership of Barbara Jordan's courage in the introduction? Also, I'd like to ask Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan about their sudden endorsement for Hillary on this campaign - but there's a problem, they're dead. And can't say yes or no to her claim on them. What a corpse robber. It makes me wonder about other dead women Hillary's known. Will Suzanne Coleman and Kathy Ferguson make it into future namedropped statements?
Tweet! TIME OUT CALLED. The judges are asked to review my last sentence. They're verifying. After some deliberation: "BOTH RULED A SUICIDE" I'm told, but I'm allowed to continue on. Phew, I thought I blew it. Sorry. Anyway, clearly a cheap shot. But if Hillary is so interested in exploiting her past, right.....?
Now, this debate will end up being one of the largest viewed in politics history. Something like 7.5 million tv sets in its first airing, followed by numerous local and national rebroadcasts, and also youtubed and tivod. So there's a chance if you're reading this thing you've already seen the debate and don't need any more comments on what was said on tv.
As for things that weren't televised:
Inside the press room, it's an interesting mix of loud chattering followed by a thick lull and drag. People disappear and don't return, leaving dirty plates and crumbs. Others arrive to the whole thing almost an hour late. The most bored are the photographers. There's nothing here for them, and alot of them either leave or wander around shooting pictures of people watching the television screens. It surprises me to see a majority of the room increasingly less and less interested in the debate. They slouch in their seats and look off at the ground. I can only think of how old this sort of job must get, following candidates around, speech after speech, debate after debate. But the boredom is still surprising, especially given the rowdiness of the room beforehand.
Finally we have our first commercial break. The debate has been going on for about fifty minutes at this point. The commercial break in the Press room is a dream come true for me. All the screens go black. Not just muted, but shut off. You can't believe the mental energy this seems to restore, and also you'd genuinely laugh if you saw how many people take this as an opportunity to split out of the room for good. About 1/3 of this previously at-capacity group is now gone. The screens are black and the energy is dissipating. Hold on, everyone, we have a big debate left! We also have left things on a good cliff-hanger. It went like this:
OBAMA: ... THE POINT IS THIS, YOU KNOW, WE CAN HAVE GREAT PLANS, BUT IF WE DON'T CHANGE HOW THE POLITICS IS WORKING IN WASHINGTON, THEN NEITHER OF OUR PLANS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN, AND WE'RE GOING TO BE FOUR YEARS FROM NOW DEBATING ONCE AGAIN HOW WE'RE GOING TO BRING UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE TO THIS COUNTRY.
BROWN: ALL RIGHT, WE'VE GOT SOME TIME CONSTRAINTS HERE, SO WE'VE GOT TO TAKE ANOTHER REAL QUICK BREAK. STAY WITH US. WE'VE GOT A LOT MORE AHEAD.YOU CAN COMPARE THE CANDIDATES ON THE ISSUES ANY TIME; JUST GO TO OUR WEB SITE. A LOT MORE AHEAD. WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.
And then the aforementioned screens go black and the aforementioned room cleans out - but not before you see Clinton clawing the air to Speak. Her eyes are bugged out like a pug. Interesting. Let's see if this is an opportunity to see Clinton's diplomacy. The TV's flick back on. We return.
BROWN: AN ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD HERE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS. WELCOME BACK TO THE TEXAS DEMOCRATIC DEBATE. LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT. JORGE RAMOS WITH THE NEXT QUESTION.
Yes, it's time for Jorge Ramos to ask a motherfucking question. Ramos has an awesome presence and is probably the only person on stage to match charisma with Obama. Want proof? I immediately get a text message from a good gay friend, "Ariba, sexiest man on CNN" Ha, I text back, "True. But how'd they get him out of that contract with Fantasy Island and where's Tattoo?" Anyway, Ramos' star moment with Hillary goes as follows:
RAMOS: SENATOR CLINTON, YESTERDAY YOU SAID, AND I'M QUOTING, "ONE OF US IS READY TO BE COMMANDER IN CHIEF." ARE YOU SAYING THAT SENATOR OBAMA IS NOT READY AND NOT QUALIFIED TO BE COMMANDER IN CHIEF?
CLINTON: WELL, I BELIEVE THAT I AM READY AND I AM PREPARED. AND IWILL LEAVE THAT TO THE VOTERS TO DECIDE.BUT I WANT TO GET BACK TO HEALTH CARE, BECAUSE I DIDN'T GET ACHANCE TO RESPOND AFTER SENATOR OBAMA FINISHED. (SUDDENLY VERY RUDE)
No!, LET ME! FINISH!, Jorge...
RAMOS: BUT I WOULD LIKE TO COME BACK...
CLINTON: [ignoring him] THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE. YOU KNOW, SENATOR OBAMA HAS SAID...
The joke is too obvious and I can't help myself, out I blurt, "OH MY GOD, DID HILLARY CLINTON JUST TELL A MEXICAN TO SHUT UP???" What's funny is I'm in a room of truth-seers and a bunch of them don't need to hear an outburst like that. I apologize, 'Sorry, very rude joke, unintended ...just reacting' but am immediately told by a person I haven't spoken with all day, 'no I saw it too. That's exactly what she just did.'
This is the problem of Clinton's weird on-message focus. She doesn't care about others. It comes out all the time, and it's the biggest thing to worry about with her as President. Somehow this constant re-wiring has drained all the humor and humanity out of her social skills. She's on automatic pilot 'for the prize' and it's dreadfully irritating. It has nothing to do with gender. I think Ann Richards would never do this, for example. I'd like to ask her about it but, you know... (not around)
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My view for the night