Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disclaimer from my other blog before PI

This short post is actually a link to a post some may find of interest, but I chose not to put at the top of my blog.

I trust people who read here know I am a Christian, but like most readers, I find “in your face” religion less than winsome. As a writer, I'd rather let people get to know me over time, and then in that context allow them to see reminders of the faith and beliefs that give purpose to my life.

Likewise, in the heat of this political season, I have thus far chosen not to stir politics directly into the Patterns of Ink pot. Partly to keep peace among friends, and partly because I understand how they can see appealing qualities in both of the leading figures in this race. But mostly I've been avoiding political posts to avoid the mess. I’ve seen such topics boil over in comment sections on other blogs. [Thus the comment section is also at the link.]

So in an effort not to interrupt the thread of these “Unsettled” posts about my homestead, I have hidden a very current first-person, eye-witness report and placed it deep in my archives. It’s rare that I have a “front row seat” to something the whole country is watching, but last night I did, and I wrote about it below.

Wow! What a Night!

Actually written September 17, 2008

I'm sitting at an event that will be shown live on many webcasts and "cut to" on virtually every news channel. Not only am I here, but for reasons I’ll not explain I have a VIP pass in my chest pocket which allowed Julie and I and two friends to enter early and be ushered to seats directly behind the dais. I now have ninety minutes with nothing better to do so I thought I’d attempt to hand write a post from here. I’m writing on the back of a “Reserved” sign because—in spite of the very important “I” in VIP—I’m not allowed to have a lap-top in here. [My pass should say NSIP: Not So Important Person.]

On the opposite side of the arena, however, I see scores of lap-tops open on bare tables and glowing on the faces of journalists. A little while ago, with a flash of my VIP pass, I was allowed to walk in their midst, nodding as if I belonged there. Most of them are the unknown writers who give “copy” to the faces we see each night on TV, but a few of them are the “on the scene” reporters we’ve come to vaguely recognize on cable networks. In every corner and at every aisle of this swarming bee-hive, I see men in black talking into their sleeves—on second glance, I see some women doing the same—these folks are all business and their robotic heads seem to be scanning the growing crowd as if with X-ray vision. They don’t look at you—they look in you. They are on “our side” but their very presence is a reminder of the fallen, broken world we share with drastic men.

I must admit, I’m feeling very privileged to be in “hand shake” range of the two people en route. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was to see their eyes as they talk to a crowd. The eyes say so much about a person, and so much has been said about these two in the past three weeks that I want to see for myself what’s real. Here where we are I can smell the brand new royal blue carpet on the small stage across in front of me.

At this moment, the rafters are rocking and the floor is vibrating from voice and bass riffs of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation.” You know the song (revived via Robert’s wedding episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”)

"A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark…
Don't procrastinate, don't articulate"

Back when Elvis sang that song, it was good cause for fatherly consternation, but as an opener for a candidate who is not particularly articulate but known far more for a lifetime of action… it couldn’t be a better fit.

This arena is already packed—standing room only—with a jostling line still waiting to get in. Just above the crowd, the klieg lights are not all lit, and of the 25+ television camera tripods stationed around the room, only four are manned. That will change in an hour, I’m sure. I’ve been to such events before: in 1980 and 84, I sat waiting for Ronald Reagan to arrive. I was to his right—that is my seat was to his right—about the only way I’d care to be “to the right” of Ronald Reagan. I’ve been at such events for every Presidential race since then, but never have I been seated this close to the speakerS.

That last word is, perhaps, the most telling word in this report. You’ll notice I said speakerS with an “S” at the end, plural. You know where I’m going with this, but it is a reality that cannot be ignored. Books will be written about this particular political race no matter what the outcome is. The question is what kind of shelves will hold the books. If tonight’s speakerS, as a team, win on November 4th, library shelves will bend under the weight of the books praising and cursing its historic significance. If they do not win, far fewer books will be written and many of them will be on “CLEARANCE” shelves with faint hope of political resurrection. The same can be said of books about the opposing Presidential candidate, but the “S” he chose to make his ticket plural is far less important to his success. In fact, his “S” will matter only if he loses. Because in that event, his loss will be rightly blamed on his wrong choice of “S.” It was that safe choice that opened the door for the two speakerS coming here tonight.

The feelings run deep for the VEEP slot of this year’s Republican ticket. Never has a choice stirred such a venomous, vomitous reaction from those who “hate” her, while at the same time stirring deepening admiration from those who see in her a new kind of leader. The purpose of this post is not to stir readers to either extreme reaction. (So if you choose to comment, be civil.)
Congressman Pete Hoekstra just stepped to the dais. I’m signing off for now, when I resume writing on this scrap of paper after, I hope merely to tell you what I'm watching and venture a guess as to whether or not this momentum has peaked as many have discussed.

Okay… the event is over. In case, you still don't know what it was, I’m at the McCain/Palin “Town Hall Meeting” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are some details you may not hear or read elsewhere.

I don’t know it has always been true, but John McCain enters the arena to Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Click this link to hear those iconic notes and imagine thousands of people waiting for this most veteran of senators to step from the tunnel at the far end of what could pass for a Military airplane hanger. Regardless of one’s politics, hearing that “common man” theme, those regal French horns, and the tympani echoing as if through time itself, the build-up was impressive. For me, I again realized that the man we are about to see is a one-of-a-kind American, the likes of which my generation and his may never see again.

And then he enters in, crippled arms waving to the crowd. And along side him there's a woman, who in her own way may someday inspire a rendition of Copeland’s song entitled “Fanfare for the Common Woman.” Because, my Friends, [Did I just say “My friends”?—that’s a side affect of the past hour of intense listening to Mc Cain.] My friends, say what you will about this lady, it is her extraordinary commonness that is her chief appeal. When all is said to both praise and pounce on the Governor from Alaska, it is her unbleached muslin quality—not some “lily white linen” nor even the mud-stained cloak of her past three weeks—but the unbleached, rough-hewn fabric of this woman’s story that has brought her to the fore.

[I’m now home at my computer—scribbling on a sheet of paper was nearly impossible in the aftermath of tonight’s event.]

Let’s see… where was I? Oh, yes, I was talking about the "Fanfare for the Common Man." Now add this to the mix, during all that fanfare, in slipped a quiet unassuming man just a few seats to my right. No one notice him. He did not sit on the dais but in the seats along side the “common folk.” We didn’t see him until Senator McCain walked toward him and asked him to stand. And there, beaming from ear to ear, was Todd Palin. [See him interviewed here Part 1 and here Part 2 and other "parts" at that site.] He waved in all directions and just as the applause peaked sat down again, content to be out of the limelight.

I watched him often throughout the rest of the evening. His genuine smile and confident, merry eyes were constant, but he did not respond to the cheers and applause around him. He was clearly proud to be there, but knew his is a quiet supporting role to his wife who in turn clearly understands her supporting role to McCain. In the two weeks since her speech at the convention, this political duo has found a rhythm in their interaction on stage. It works, and for those hoping the wheels will soon fall off this bandwagon, I saw no signs of that tonight. Are they perfect? No. But McCain is a better candidate because of her, and she is a far more plausible candidate along side of him, which brings me to my next point.

Much has been said about the qualifications of all the candidates—including one candidate who is no longer in this race, Hillary Clinton. How many times have the “talking heads” from both sides of the aisle asked “Is he/she the most qualified person to be running for President or the Veep slot?” Here’s news: I doubt that ANY Presidential candidate EVER to run for office has ever been THE most qualified to fill it. [Click on photo of McCain to enlarge. Julie and I are to the left of his shoulder. Julie is in pink; I'm in black.]

If there were some way to actually determine the “most qualified” candidate in the citizenry of a nation, some bigger questions would still exist: Does that person have the stomach for politics and can that person connect with the common man in order to inspire a following? That is the essence of political leadership. For good or bad, the candidates “following” must translate into a majority of motivated voters, state by state, across the land.

Don't get me wrong a candidate's experience, character, and gut-check preparedness for "such a time as this," are very important, but they only get put in place if the people rally to elect. McCain's choice has made that more likely to happen for him. Tonight I witnessed continuing proof of that.

Before I close, beyond the “most qualified” question, there is another question we hear during political races that is completely meaningless because its terms are undefined. You’ve heard it in countless polls that for some reason get reported as if it's shocking news. It is the answer to this survey question that has much of “the media,” pollsters, and spin doctors perplexed. Here’s the poll question:

“Is the country headed in the wrong direction?”

In any given week, we may hear that 80% of those asked feel America's headed in the wrong direction. If that is true, some people conclude, then there should be no way for a Republican presidential candidate to win an election in 2008. But the question is meaningless because the word direction is not defined. Are we talking economic direction? Military direction? Moral direction? The question never tells us. Because of that, Pamela Anderson would answer the question “Yes, it’s going in the wrong direction” for reasons shared by her Hollywood peers and the 50% of America that cares what "stars" think. Meanwhile the other 50% of America may also answer “Yes” because they shudder at the thought that the opinions of Pamela Anderson reflect the collective conscience of so many. So you see, the answer to the “wrong direction” question is meaningless in that the “yes” responses are often interpreted as a unified assessment while actually masking opposing concerns and conflicting solutions.

That is the essence of politics, and I for one would not choose to be in the business. I don't have the stomach for it, but I do find it fascinating from an arm’s length as I saw it tonight (Yes, that arm's length was close enough to shake hands and get autographs when it was over.) As is true of many people this year, I have good friends still "undecided" in this election, and I can see the initial appeal of both choices. But just in case you’re wondering where I stand, when the curtain of the voting booth closes behind me, there will be no room for Pamela Anderson inside.

Oh, one other thought: Who is the person described below:

I am under 45 years old,
I love the outdoors,
I love to hunt,
I am a Republican reformer,
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
I have many children,
I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

You guessed it... Teddy Roosevelt!

Updates Posted as November 4 approaches:
9-21-08 Sarah draws 60,000 in Florida Sarah wakes up California
9-22-08 NBC's SNL crosses the line. "What makes a generation laugh and cry tells you much about that generation." TK. If the Palins respond to this, they will simply make it more "news worthy," but I'm telling you, folks, the media underestimates the millions of voters who will find the Palin's character all-the-more remarkable as they turn the other cheek. Note to Palin family: You turn the cheek; we'll turn the channel. As for me and my house, no more NBC or MSNBC.

This article by Victor Davis Hanson rationally explains the difference between "head knowledge" and the common sense of wisdom, which is why he has confidence in Governor Palin.

A post VP debate phone interview with Palin.

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