Monday, May 19, 2008

Barack Obama In Pendleton, Oregon

If you're going to go see Barack I suppose you ought to show your colors, my wife's SSR.
Opening speaker Barbara, whose last name I missed.
From twelve feet away you can get a pretty good impression of body language and expression.
I have now spent better than an hour and a half with in speaking range of the man likely to be the next President of the US. That proximity of course does not count as acquaintance but there is a wealth of information available the is not from a television screen or across an auditorium. I was invited to sit in the VIP section, I gather, due to my Democratic Party of Oregon roles. As with Pres. Clinton I wore no campaign gear, only my Grassroots Democrat pin and my DPO Gun Owners Caucus hat. Oh hell, I clapped a lot and cheered and made no pretence he isn't my candidate. Senator Obama arrived on stage shortly after 6:30 PM Pacific in Pendleton, Oregon.

Pendleton is famous for a couple things, the Pendleton Roundup if you're a rodeo fan or Pendleton Wool. The town's population is right around 14K and it sits in the northeast corner of the state, slightly south of the Columbia River on the Umatilla River and somewhat west of the Idaho border at the foot of the Umatilla Mountains, a part of the Blue Mountain Range. Not far from town is the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Wildhorse Casino and a forward looking tribal council have brought a measure of success there. Pendleton's climate is fairly mild, more strongly influenced by the Columbia River Gorge than the mountains. Blue Mountain Community College has its home there but the town is more a blue collar town than a college town. The crowd, I estimate at over 2,000 (***per AP-over 3500***), was over 90% white with Native Americans the largest minority group, ages ran the gamut, but the majority over 30 years age. The crowd was enthusiastic, in the mood for lots of clapping and cheering and standing ovations.

The opening speaker pictured above is a local waitress, a minimum wage earner who did a nice job with something outside her ordinary experience. She emphasized the struggle working people face and her belief Obama is the person to deal with it. She recently lost a grown son to an aneurysm shortly after he'd finished a letter to Sen. Obama, a large reason giving the opening was so meaningful to her. As you can see in the picture the Senator gave Barb his sole attention.

The Senator spoke for less than an hour and then took questions from the audience. The speech was one he has given before, I had watched part of the Portland Waterfront speech on CNN and recognized lines, but it was tailored to the part of the country he was in. Any references to Senator Clinton and her campaign were moderate and for the most part conciliatory, though contrasts were drawn, particularly in regard to future foreign policy - though even there the emphasis was on John McCain.

This speech consisted of 3 pieces, who Barack is and why he is running, why John McCain must not be allowed to persist in George II's policies, and what Barack Obama intends to do. He entwined the three pieces in both his speech and his answers to questions. Much of the speech was his stump speech, he is running now rather than later because of what MLK called the 'urgency of now," the idea that the country is at a historical crossroad. The economic failures of BushCo cannot be perpetuated on the workers by John McCain and the war in Iraq must be ended and Afghanistan prosecuted in a manner leading to success.

I won't replay a speech that most have heard most elements of, the questions may have been more original so I'll try to address them in the abbreviated manner available to me. Sen. Obama took about six questions and used nearly 45 minutes answering that many and two were the complimentary gimme sorts of things, ie: are you going to do more to get the "Colbert/Stewart bump" and will you come back after you're President. (yes and I'd like to) Other questions received detailed answers, much too extensive for me to cover here, I was seriously impressed by both the quality of the questions and particularly the detail and extent of the answers. There may have been a sound bite available in the answers, but the detail and range of the answers defies a simple blog post much less the MSM approach.

A question of what will you do about Cuba? The transfer of power from Fidel to his brother may offer new openings, but the simple fact is that our policy of 45 years has not resulted in a freer or more prosperous citizenry and persisting in the same actions and expecting different results is the definition of madness. The US could make opening moves by easing the travel restrictions on families from the US and on remittances but from there it would depend on Castro. This answer also broadened into the concept of talking to our adversaries to find elements of common ground to ease tensions.

A question about the recent Farm Bill and subsidies creating an atmosphere of dependence from a beef rancher. You have to be ready for a ride with this one, Barack voted (***supported-I misunderstood the thrust of the words***) for the bill but doesn't like some aspects of it but regards it as an improvement over previous ones. He disapproves of the benefits accorded agribusinesses, subsidizing the Fortune 400. He would like to see the emphasis more on catastrophic protection, natural or the bottom falling out of a market and the encouragement of a more varied food production. He believes that the epidemic of childhood obesity is linked to the Farm Bill, through food offered in schools and the food stuffs subsidized which links into health care costs and educational success. Yes, the Farm Bill gets you to health care and education and you've got enough information to do the connection work without me spending six paragraphs on it. Like I said, these were not simple sound bite answers.

A question about what he would do about the Hanford cleanup. His answer, you won't hear this from a politician very often, but I don't know the issue; and I will by the time my plane lands in Montana tonight. My estimation is that he meant that and wasn't pleased he didn't know it.

Regarding your stance on alternative energy, what about nuclear? He said some answers don't please everybody and this one may please no one. He wants to invest money to study it, in particular the waste disposal, but "some times you have to pick your poison" because nuclear energy doesn't create carbon waste. You have to know what your options involve, realistically. The same regarding coal, "we are the Saudi Arabia of coal," but it is one of our dirtiest fuels. Research is needed on cleaning it up, a role for the federal government.

I have stated repeatedly that as a political junkie of many years standing I am not given to fandom regarding politicians. I recognize that these people have thrived in a flawed system, some have thrived sufficiently to be realistic candidates for President, but I came away impressed. I was not impressed by rhetorical flourishes, I was impressed by the depth of thought and the range of it. I was impressed by the ability to naturally interconnect seemingly disparate items into a coherent chain of thought. I am pleased by the impetus to change the way business is done in DC, to drag health care negotiations with Congress onto CSPAN where you can see what we're doing and who won't and why, but the hope of unity is trumped by how he thinks.

I am satisfied that my vote for Obama was well placed and tonight I am happier with it than previously. Thank you Senator for coming to Eastern Oregon, I hope our hospitality made the trip worthwhile. I'm tired, it has been a long day, 100 miles each way, home after midnight, and now this post - goodnight - or good morning...


Bpaul said...

Thanks for the post, it was an informative and interesting read.

I'll be back.


Hannah said...

Hey Chuck,
Thanks for the informative post!

I saw Obama in Bend OR on May 10, also from close range, and like you, was impressed. The stump speech was pretty much as expected, the real test came in the question & answer period. Aside from one question about Hillary's "new math" re FL and MI, the questions were far better than what we've heard from the teevee "professionals" in debates. And Obama's answers were well-thought out and detailed. One dealt with nuclear power (as it did in Pendleton), one was on student loans/grants, one was on security of America and the UN's role, and one was on job outsourcing.

I was particularly interested in the one on nuclear energy as I'd heard Obama was for it. But he emphasized that that was only one aspect of an overall energy strategy - there is no single silver bullet - and he would only be in favor if we could store waste safely (environmentally and away from terrorists) and if the projects were not boondoggles. With that explanation I felt better.

So... we'll see what happens tomorrow with our primary!

Tax Analyst said...


Thanks for the up-close and detailed view of Senator Obama's Pendleton, OR appearance. It's good to get this type of view from a political veteran who has been around more than a little and is not prone to starry-eyed naivete.

You've more or less confirmed the way I have been perceiving Senator Obama during the campaign and I consider that a valuable confirmation. I'm going to be glad to be marking the box or pulling the lever for Obama(or whatever we're doing in California this General Election to cast our ballot).


Karen said...

Hi Chuck:
Thanks for taking this East-Coaster to the Obama Oregon Event, and for your thoughtful remarks.

Looking for a "bigger hammer", with which to wake up Americans who fail to do their own "homework".

Saw a Documentary, ENDGAME by Alex Jones. Not sure about ALL of his conclusions, but the FACTS terrifying and impossible to argue.

Due to the unfortunate demise of Investigative Journalism, FACTS are much more difficult to come by without serious study.

Now "talking heads", paid Carnival Barker for Ratings, repeat and repeat the Talking Points issued by their corporate media bosses, to benefit their agenda and grow profits.

We should all let networks know we are on to them, and going to the Internet for real news.

Keep going, Chuck. Thanks for the Avenue of Communication.
Karen, NYC

Oregonian37 said...

I did get to see him in Portland and, as you mention, he said alot of what he has been saying. I am glad you shared this question and answer piece (something obviously impossible in Portland). It reinforces my vote for him. I know we want our leaders to know their stuff, but to also know that they are willing to admit not having all the knowledge is just as important to me. We want leaders in America, not gods. Obama was not my first choice, but I am glad to have him as my current one.

trishka said...

Chuck, thanks for the analysis. I saw him in Albany and agree with your assessment - the stump speech was what it was but where he shone was in the Q & A portion. He did a thorough job of answering the questions and didn't dodge any though issues. I came away from the event more impressed with him than before I went in.

Anonymous said...

A very nice write-up. As a longstanding Obama supporter but someone who likes to hear more substance and less, well, awe, it was great to get a firstand report of his demeanor and his thoughtful manner in answering questions. I love hearing about the 75k rally in Portland, but it's this sort of thing that gives me hope he could be a good President.

Chuck Butcher said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I know I was not able to do real justice to the appearance, but I did ty to give the flavor.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, you stated:

" ...... I was impressed by the depth of thought and the range of it. I was impressed by the ability to naturally interconnect seemingly disparate items into a coherent chain of thought. "

I, too, am impressed with Obama's intellectual prowess in that area. In my observation, he actually goes far beyond just being able to string those disparate items into a coherent stream of thought. I see him actually describing to us, is how items on surface view may seem to be separate and perhaps unrelated, are actually individual bits of an integrated whole.

I am reminded of the story about the three "blind" people are describing in detail items that they each are feeling. They each are convinced their "view" is the correct description of the entire item. Then, along comes a sighted person who first describes the individual pieces each "blind" person is interacting with, then goes on to describe how each of those parts is connected to what is actually an elephant.

Thanks, Chuck for your eloquent description of the event in Pendleton.