I had the pleasure of attending the President’s rally in Greeley this morning, courtesy of the campaign and its generous issuance of press credentials to the RMA. (Richard also took advantage of the offer. He needs a camera. I need a digital camera. Hmmm. Maybe we need an RMA camera fund...) The site was the Island Grove Park, in the Events Center. It’s a smallish venue: about 8000 people, although it was probably the largest venue in Greeley. (The University of Northern Colorado stadium holds only about 7000). Last time I was here was in 2000 for the Greeley Dog show. The configuration is different for a dog-and-pony show.
It's appropriate that the President was speaking in Greeley. The town is named for Horace Greeley, whose rapidly-changing position on the Civil War mirrors that of the President's opponent. He pushed for vigorous prosecution of the war, and then got mixed up in an unauthorized peace mission in 1864. He opposed the President's re-election until September of 1864, after the Atlanta and Petersburg military victories.
A photographer next to me had heard that at the Kerry rally in Pueblo, there were 2000 people outside with 15 minutes to go, and they shut down the metal detectors. So I guess it’s true, the Democrats really are softer on security.
The warm-up music this time was oldies rock rather than country. “Great Balls o’ Fire” and a couple other up-tempo numbers to start, and then – oddly – “We’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’.”
Wayne Allard, every inch the veterinarian, hosted the event. Fourth District Congressman Marilyn Musgrave spoke, as did Pete Coors, who stayed late to sign autographs and have his picture taken. He seemed to love every minute of it, and I think he’s finally realizing that despite all the work, the campaign is to be savored, not resented.
The invocation was a little weird, and a little over-the-top. I can completely understand the religious sensibility that God has a hand in choosing our leaders, and certainly at a Republican event, the pastor would thank Him for sending us the man we’re trying to get re-elected. The pastor also made it clear that while he believed that George Bush was the man to vote for, that whoever was elected would be, in some sense, the leader that God had chosen for us, and that we should follow him. Some could be forgiven, though, for believing that the pastor was calling Bush God’s representative, or something like that, although it looked like he was a little too eager to hear that. I thought he stayed this side of that sort of nuttiness, but it looked like he had to work at it a little.
The intros finished earlier than planned, so we were left with this large, ponderous, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” movie soundtrack kind of music that ran through about 7 ½ times. At first I thought it might be from Apollo 13, but I needed to make it clear that no, I was absolutely not sure that it actually was from Apollo 13. The last thing I needed was to have some rumor I started end up in the paper.
Today’s Surprise Guest was none other than Rudy Giuliani. Talk about a rock star. Although Republicans once again showed their difficulties with rhythm, as an attempt to chant “Rudy” ended up sounding like booing. And this time, Laura Bush was there as the Family Member, though according to the President, she was probably happy she didn’t have to speak.
The President’s speech was almost entirely about the war, and much sharper on that. Very little on terrorism. But it was sharper, more clearly defined than I had heard before. He finally got around to countering Kerry’s Tora Bora lie, and pointed out that Kerry had supported both the campaign and the way it was fought at the time.
He noted that Kerry had said that by invading Iraq, we had created more terrorists. “Senator Kerry has it wrong. You don’t create terrorists by fighting them. You defeat terrorists by fighting them!” When he got to the part about turning Iraq from an adversary into an ally, it sounded to me like he was talking about crushing vermin with the very rock they had been hiding under.
Also went after Kerry’s historical aversion to a robust foreign policy. Kerry opposed aid to the Contras, the Pershings in Europe, and voted against weapons systems that we’re now using to fight terror. “History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong, and Ronald Reagan was right [I’ll bet that name didn’t get a cheer like today’s in Pueblo –ed.]. When former President Bush,” assembled the coalition to oust Saddam from Kuwait, Senator Kerry voted against it. “History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong, and that former President Bush [yes, that’s how he referred to his father –ed.] was right. After the first World Trade Center bombing, Senator Kerry called for intelligence cuts so drastic that even his colleague Senator Kennedy couldn’t support them. History has shown that Senator Kerry was wrong (long pause), and, let’s give him his due (laughter), Senator Kennedy was right [delivered with obvious relish to great laughter –ed.].”
He had the crowd laughing with him now, and went for the jugular. “Senator Kerry voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein, and then criticized me for…using force against Saddam Hussein. Hours after saying that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to vote against the troops, he voted against them….History has shown that Senator Kerry was right, and then wrong, and then briefly right again, and then wrong.” (Place erupts.)
He continues to use Dennis Prager’s line about other occupations that the terrorists might have taken up, had we not been so rude as to defend ourselves.
The second half of the speech was mostly held over from the previous stump speech, the one with a domestic issues section. But it was much more powerful, much more meaningful, with the new first half.
I can’t tell you how completely, utterly, like, totally cool it was to have press access, and to get to sit with the rest of the local press. The Greeley Tribune and other local papers from Loveland and Ft. Collins were, of course, wildly over-represented, and they couldn’t possibly have been nicer to me, or to the staff. I heard one woman remark, as we went through security, “no wonder people hate dealing with the press. Some of them really are jerks.” At least I think she said “jerks.”
One reporter from one of the northern Colorado papers made clear the relationship between the mainstream traditional press and the blogs. She asked the name of my blog, and whether it was pro-Bush. When I said, “yes,” she said that she’d have to be careful then about what she said. I reassured her that I wasn’t there to campaign, and she did let me know that she thought Kerry was much more liberal then he pretended to be. Still, she clearly saw, in this post-CBS era, blogs as a sort of meta-media, reporting not only on the event, but also on the media itself.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mike Littwin of the Rocky. Now I have my political differences with the man. There are times when he writes as though no other interpretation of events were possible. But he remembered the emails about his Red/Blue/Battleground series we had exchanged, and we got to talking about the Old Country. It turns out he graduated from Newport News High School in 1966, 13 years after my father did. He also went to U.Va., graduating in 1970. We avoided talking about politics and writing, and I suspect he was pleased to have a respite.
I will say that while I expect his column comparing the Pueblo and Greeley rallies to be pro-Kerry, I don’t expect it to be a hatchet job. He was the one who talked a fellow reporter down from his conviction that the pastor was playing Pope to the President’s Charlemagne.
This time, I have pictures. Although the lighting was terrible, and I was stuck with the long lens and 100-speed film I had brought from home.
Here's Senator Allard. He's a fine man and a good Senator, but I'd be very careful about booking him as an after-dinner speaker:
Congressman Marilyn Musgrave:
And who's that next to the Representative? Why yes! Those of you with very good eyesight may squint a little and make out former Representative Bob Schaefer:
And The Man, himself: