Centro, Des Moines, Iowa. January 18, 2004. This was the second picture I had of my brush with broadcasting fame. In the first, I held the camphone and took the shot. Peter Jennings looked at picture and said, “Wait! Your head’s bigger than mine! Let’s do it again!”
This is the shot he took. I’ll have to toast him again tonight like I did then.
(Note: I never finished writing the follow-up to my adventure in Iowa, probably because I was too exhausted and depressed from the collapse of Howard Dean’s campaign. After someone on MeFi posted about the scream, I cranked out this reply. Someone on MeFi, who was an editor for Wired, said I should send this out to every op-ed page I could. I did, and it never got published, but what the hell.)
After a week of seeing Howard Dean’s Monday night yell plastered all over the news, after a week of listening to talking heads declaring his candidacy dead, after a week of pundits saying that Howard Dean is “unstable” and “frightens children,” after after a week of hearing everything from the Howard Dean Techno Remix to AC/DeanC’s “Highway to Hell,” I thought the furor had died down. Then Diane Sawyer interviews Howard and Judy Dean last night on “Primetime” and spends the first half trying to nail Governor Dean for being angry and unpresidential. She brought up the speech with The Yell. I am sick and tired of the media beating this dead horse when there are plenty of live horses that need to get the stuffing kicked out of them. (And, just so you know, I love horses. I’m talking about metaphorical equines, about which I could care less.)
I was there in the Val-Air Ballroom. I’d answered the campaign’s call to come to Iowa to be a volunteer, and I’d spent the weekend walking around Des Moines, feeling my sinuses turn to stone in the -20 weather and wondering if I was helping Dean win Iowa or making the biggest mistake of my life. I came to that rally after watching the dismal returns with my friends back at the motel, and all I wanted to do was wallow in self-pity. I wasn’t in the mood for any rah-rah, not from the local campaign manager, not from Tom Harkin, and not from the candidate himself.
Howard Dean took the stage amid the roar of the crowd, and I thought to myself, “Who are we kidding? We got our heads handed to us, and we’re cheering? What is wrong with us?” But then he started talking, reminding us that, yes, it would’ve been awesome if we’d come in first or second, but that we’d still won delegates. We weren’t out like Dick Gephardt. We’d come in third, and no one expected us to get this far. We had our ticket punched to New Hampshire, and we were going to keep on campaigning in the rest of the country. Now, he reminded us, was not the time to give up.
And then Governor Dean started with that chant: “We’re not gonna give up in New Hampshire!” and the crowd roared back “No!” and then “We’re not gonna give up in South Carolina!” and the crowd roared back even louder. And on and on through the next states we have to win, ending with that yell that I can’t even remember. I don’t think I heard it ’cause the room was so loud. I didn’t hear it because I was so loud, roaring along with the rest of my fellow Deaniacs.
The man on stage wasn’t someone in denial. This wasn’t someone having a psychotic episode. This was the coach telling us after the first game of the season that we’d screwed up, we hadn’t beaten the other team like we thought we would, we’d been too cocky, but we still had amazing potential if we stopped believing our own press and got back to work. This was the pep talk I needed to hear, neophyte campaign worker that I am, and if he’d said anything less, if he’d acted anything less, I’d have left Iowa more disappointed than I was. That’s Howard Dean up there, I realized as I went in for a handshake and a picture, and that’s the man I want in the White House. That’s the man for whom I’m going to work my tail off come hell or high water. Howard Dean is a leader, and leaders don’t give their supporters what they want. True leaders give them what they need.
Iowa – Dinner with Dennis
West Des Moines, IA
I should have known it would be a weird night when I found out the Vietnamese place was called A Dong. It got even weirder when I saw that the front was plastered with Kucinich signs. And it was downright surreal when I found out I was walking right into a Kucinich rally and that the Congressman from Ohio would be there to inspire the troops. (more…)
Iowa – Canvassing
Perfect Storm HQ
Locust Street, Des Moines, IA
I am exhausted, and all I did today was walk. My team was assigned two parts of a precinct in Ankeny; we barely finished half of one. It’s not a matter of inexperience or lack of skills. It’s just too damn cold to think. (more…)
I’m now in Detroit, and I have this to say: is Wayne County that cheap that it has to charge seven bucks for a day’s worth of WiFi?
I mean, it’s a step up from LAX, where there’s no WiFi at all. But, oy! I’m only going to be here for two hours, guys! I just wanna file this puppy and take a nap!
CNN’s on overhead. Edwards and Kerry have their sound bites, while the story’s on Gephardt and Dean pulling their attack ads. Just thinking about something I read the other day: the press has ripped into Dean, not because they don’t like him (though plenty of columnists have said the press does hate his guts. Truth, or self-fullfilling prophecy?), but because they want a better story to file. I can dig that. How thrilling is it to write the same headline (“Front Runner Stomps The Hell Out of Everyone Else”) over and over again? They want Kerry to be the Comeback Kid. They want Edwards to be the Young Man Who Could. Or, rather, I think they want them to be the Second Comings of JFK and Bill Clinton. The Senator from Massachusetts and the Young Man from the South.
One other detail about this airport: the tunnel between concourse A and concourses B and C makes me glad I don’t do drugs. Rather than have the usual boring corridor of tile mosaic that was out of fashion when Nixon was in the White House (for the first time, as Veep), the walls are decorated with acid-etched glass panels that are back lit with multi-colored lights. The lights flash in and out in time with music. It feels like a Disney ride that’s been transplanted out of 1963.
It’s also a hell of a thing to experience after spending five hours of fitful sleep in a 737. The music, which I think is meant to be chipper and exciting, portending the adventure and travel that awaits the weary traveller in the next concourses, it sounds ominous. No, make that Ominous. It is Ominous music, the kind that says your captain will be Terry Gilliam, and he’s going to take you on a trip through the sets of Brazil and Time Bandits that even he thought were too weird for the screen. It’s just not the kind of thing one needs at 6 in the morning when there’s still a long way to go.
I’m going to take a nap, get a muffin, and catch the plane to Des Moines. More later.
So, here I am in LAX. I’ve hijacked the last two plugs in the terminal, and I’m being cornered by a small, Aussie child who’s fascinated by my laptop. “Lachlan!” his dad keeps calling, and Lachlan sprawls on the floor, contrite as all get out. They have a 12 and a half hour flight, but they get to end up in Brisbane. They say it’s going to be nice and warm. I believe them. Des Moines is thirty below cold right now, and I don’t think all the long underwear in the world is gonna help.