Disclosure: I am a biased, right-wing supporting, laissez faire-encouraging, Sowell/D'Souza/O'Rourke/Coulter/Williams/Buckley/Friedman/Wall Street Journal Op-Ed/Bennett-reading, freedom-loving conservative. *breath* I think Antonin Scalia is the best thing that has ever happened to the Supreme Court and Robert Bork not being Chief is the worst. I think that Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint are the best hope for the Repubs, and that "Leave Us Alone" would be a great plank in a party platform. Imprinted on my political soul is the sentiment from a T-shirt I saw the other day: an outline of The Gipper with the words "What He Said" underneath. On the other hand, I was voted "Most Opinionated" by my graduating class and it was years before I understood that it was NOT a complement. Hopefully, with age has come maturity and a measure of graciousness... OK, so now we're introduced.
First a little comedy:
Driving through Lake Forest, I saw nothing but Ron Paul supporters. Everywhere. Signs, banners, tents, posters, t-shirts, loudspeakers, the whole shebang. The local press warned of hundreds of protesters from the entire political spectrum, but I didn't see them!
Lots and lots of security, bag checks, a group of mean-looking folks that put the TSA weenies to shame. I was standing in line to get approval to enter, hearing "Photo ID please" over and over and over, and as the security fellow asked me for mine, I pulled out my wallet and realized "Doh!" that my driver's license was nowhere to be found! He was not happy, frowning as I fumbled through my Costanza-thick wallet, impatient to attend to the throng behind me. "Well, I do have my Sports Club LA/Irvine photo ID with me," I said as I showed it to him. "Oh sure, that'll do. Thanks. Enjoy." Hysterical.
It was quite a production. TV cameras, press people, tons of video/audio stuff, Secret Service and security folk all over the place. And also a bit of a celebrity watch (humiliating admission: I love seeing famous people. It's fun! I'm the über-geek that points out "Hey, that looks like Topol! Or is it Ringo?!"). There's Gary Bauer, here's Michael W. Smith, that guy I recognize from Focus, this guy's famous, there's a well-known pastor... I'm sure there were more, but I wanted to keep my rubbernecking to a minimum. Quite exciting!
That said, I got chills when both Obama and then McCain walked on stage, just a few yards away. What an incredible privilege to be at this historic event! Very surreal and exhilarating.
My Obama analysis: Smooth as silk, very handsome and polished, suave, just oozing ease and charisma. I can see why people LOVE this guy. Before he said a word, I loved him, too! However, right from the start, it seemed that he was going to be as disappointingly indirect as possible. Long non-answering answers ruled. Although Rick Warren's questions covered most of the political issues confronting us, Senator Obama seemed to stick with answers designed to appease everyone. He only gave specific responses on a few questions: abortion (pro), taxes (pro), judges (anti-Thomas and anti-Scalia). The rest of his answers meandered at length, seeming to be preparation for a guest-appearance on Sesame Street (gentle, non-specific fuzzy-warmth) or with Tony Robbins (excited, non-specific fuzzy-warmth). I was hoping for a more ideological discussion detailing his policies, point by point by point. Although I disagreed with some of his points and wasn't sure what he actually believed on others, I understand the wave of support for him as he is an obviously super brilliant and impressive individual.
My McCain analysis: Surprisingly stiff and rigid as he entered and greeted Senator Obama, Pastor Warren and the audience. I felt immediately terrified for him that this night was going to be a disaster. But I was wrong. Way wrong. He was sharp, very funny, and 100% direct and succinct. The issues and responses: evil -- defeat it; taxes -- anti; education -- all about choices and competition (home schooling, charters, private, vouchers, etc.), and fire the sub par teachers. The Fox guy this morning described it as "The Straight Talk Express on steroids." Totally. And I found myself incredulous. And cheering. And wanting to stand in applause. Hankering to buy some stickers and yard signs.
The juxtaposition between the two candidates was incredible!
That's me (bottom corner of photo) our seats were 5 rows back and just off center! Awesome!
It was if Obama was cautious and over-thinking "I need to make sure to be inclusive, and not alienate anyone..." which I found to be off-putting. McCain seemed to be talking straight off the cuff communicating "This is what I strongly believe on the issue. Like it or lump it." I couldn't help but like it.
The candidates on abortion:
The candidates on education:
The candidates on the Supremes:
When I got home, Laurie and I watched it for the 2nd time, awed that I was there, totally grateful to to be able to be such a close-hand observer of the process. Enormous thanks to my fellow political junkie buddy, Curtis Yates, for making it possible!