John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, and Joseph Lieberman, January 24, 2004
Michael and I began the day by going to a hockey game in Manchester featuring John Kerry. When we were near the rink, we spotted some Kerry supporters and pulled over to ask them where the hockey game was. We knew we were close, but we were asking almost as a test for them because of previous problems I experienced because of supporters not knowing where an event was. They didn’t know what we were talking about, but perhaps they didn’t clearly hear what I asked.
Michael estimated that the crowd numbered about 1500, including maybe 100 members of the media. There’s a mix of ages and many people seemed to be there to watch their kids and friends play hockey. One player waved reluctantly towards the seven cheering people sitting in front of me every time he skated past. The many hockey players included high schoolers and retired Bruins. A referee gave a speech about why he supports Kerry, then introduced comedian Dennis Leary. Leary told an anecdote to explain why he and many firefighters support Kerry. Kerry was one of the few politicians who showed support for the people who lost loved ones in the Worcester warehouse fire by coming out to wait with them while crews were still looking through the rubble for the bodies of those missing. Next, Leary introduced the hockey players, ending with Kerry. Young children wearing big red t-shirts surrounded Kerry as he skated onto the ice. A young woman sang a lovely rendition of the Star Spangled Banner a cappella.
Kerry began a brief speech by referencing the lyrics “bombs bursting in air.” He acknowledged the troops serving far away and thanked them for their service. Then, he joked about hockey and reminded people that even though this afternoon’s event is fun, the race is serious and he would like everyone’s support on Tuesday, when New Hampshire has its primary.
Kerry scored a goal near the end of the first period, but it didn’t look like a real goal because the goalie could have easily blocked the shot.
Michael and I left after the first period so that we could arrive at a house party for Dennis Kucinich on time. As we were leaving, we spotted Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Michael quickly handed me his digital camera so that I could take a photo of him next to the mayor while the mayor gave an autograph to someone else.
Michael has posted some terrific photographs and a discussion of the hockey game.
Rumor has it that Kerry’s side lost the hockey game, but I don’t know the final score.
Next, Michael and I got a nice tour of Nashua looking for a house party for Dennis Kucinich. The map we had was not adequate. You know that myth about how men never stop to ask for directions? Well, Michael stopped at least thrice to ask people. The first man just said we were on the right street, but didn’t indicate which direction we needed to go. The postman wasn’t familiar with that area of town. The man with a group of young men said they were from Philadelphia and couldn’t help us, but they had attended a Kucinich event earlier that day. Finally, I called Jay, who was meeting us at the house party, to see if he could help us. Indeed, he was able to direct us.
Even though we arrived a few minutes after the event was supposed to begin, we were there well ahead of Kucinich because he was running about an hour behind schedule. The house was lovely and the hosts prepared a nice spread of food for Kucinich and the guests. Jay observed that it wasn’t particularly vegan, though. (Kucinich is vegan.) The young crowd included a guitar player and pianist who serenaded us. Train tracks behind the house, thick black lines in the snow, also waited for something to happen.
After he arrived, Kucinich walked around to greet people and shake hands. He’s the first presidential politician to have shaken my hand this campaign (and maybe ever). He begins his talk by thanking the host and praises the white, upright piano. He doesn’t seem focused when he begins to speak, then he announced that five more troops have died today, bringing the total number of dead to 512. He remembers how during the Vietnam War, he became accostumed to seeing the count every day. He worked as a copy boy at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for a while and told a story about getting a photo of a deceased soldier from a family during that war. He relaxed a little more as he talked about waiting as they went through their photographs (his story implied that someone else from the newspaper had already contacted the family to request a photo and he just went to pick it up) and how they finally selected the photo of a proud, young soldier in uniform from the top of the television and asked if they could have it back in time for the funeral so they could display it on his coffin.
He continued his thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq by reminding us of the 512 soldiers who have given their lives to this cause, the thousands more who have been injured, and all the Iraqis who have died or been injured also. Bush wants to run for re-election based on a lie, he claimed. Terror and fear embrace our every day lives. He stated that some of the candidates aren’t in touch with this reality.
What happens, he asked, if the President debates a Democratic nominee who supported or voted for the war? What can be said? He thinks those presidential candidates who supported the war have nothing to contest with Bush.
Kucinich would like to bring in the United Nations to help with the situation over there. He thinks that doing so would allow us to leave Iraq sooner. He also wants to give reparations to the Iraqis and continue to help with nation building.
He took questions from the audience when he finished speaking.
- Will he take his campaign to the end? Yes. It’s a 50 state campaign.
- What does he think about our troops in Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East? He thinks we should involve the world in Afghanistan, too. He would like to try to bring the leaders in the Middle East together and try to improve economic conditions there. He thinks a better economy would relieve some of the tension.
- Jay asked a question trying to clarify something Kucinich said earlier that indicated efforts in Iraq did not involve international troops. Kucinich replied that the United States dragged these other countries into the war.
- What about Saddam being in custody?
Kucinich responded by saying the next presidential election is our opportunity to change our regime.
Kucinich then quickly stated a few things he would work on as president: economic improvement; creating jobs, perhaps with programs similar to some government projects in the Depression; single-payer health care; pre-kindergarten for all children; money for college; and reducing tax cuts for the wealthy. The question we need to think about, he said, is how much change we want.
It seemed to me that he spent most of his talk–which only lasted about twenty minutes all together–criticizing Bush and the current state of the economy and didn’t say very much about his stance on issues, what he would like to accomplish as president, how he would change things, or why we should vote for him other than the fact that he has never supported the Iraq war.
Michael decided he was going back to Boston after Kucinich. Jay offered to give me a ride home later if I wanted to go to an event with Lieberman early that evening. He gave me a tour of his office while we waited and showed me some fascinating projects he’s working on.
We arrived just as Lieberman’s town hall meeting was supposed to begin. The room was too small for the attending crowd by perhaps 200 people, so people of all ages, including children, were waiting in the stairwells and the hallway hoping to hear some of his speech or catch a glimpse of him. A large group of people left, so Jay and I and many others moved into the large hall outside of the meeting room. A man was telling people where to stand so that they could pack more people into the hall and get them off the stairs. We thought Lieberman was already speaking and since we couldn’t see or hear anything and I was not comfortable in the crowd, we decided to leave just as the man directed people to go to a large lobby downstairs because there were too many people in the hallway he just filled. We squeezed down a flight of stairs with many other people just as men were coming up the stairs telling people they couldn’t walk down the stairs. I ignored the man and kept going. As we were winding our way through the hall to get outside, Lieberman and some of his aides came through a narrow doorway we were headed to. Jay and I stepped aside to let him pass and Lieberman shook Jay’s hand as he walked past, but did not shake mine. He was moving so quickly and everything happened so fast, I barely had time to touch my camera case, let alone get a photo of the moment.
As we paused near the outside doors to bundle up for the short walk to the car, some people asked us if they were still letting people into the event upstairs. We said they weren’t. A young woman then asked us for our names and phone numbers so that Lieberman could call us later to talk to us. We both declined to give our contact information or names. Then one campaign worker said that he was speaking at the Sheraton next and we could go to that. Jay asked if it was a public event. The campaign workers answered “Yes,” then “No,” then admitted that they didn’t know. Jay and I both understood that the event was not open to the public.
As we were leaving, Jay remarked that Lieberman probably wouldn’t call, and if there was a call, Lieberman probably wouldn’t make the call himself anyway. I said it would have been interesting to find out if they would make the call in any case and thought it would be good blog fodder, but I decided not to go back in to give them my name and number.
Even though John Edwards was speaking in about two hours, we chose not to stay around for it. I plan to return to New Hampshire on Sunday the 25th. Stay tuned for details.
Besides the photo linked above, Michael has also posted another photo taken on the trip.
Jay blogged about it in his typical fashion.
More coverage of campaign events I attended is in the stories section.
More political coverage by the Thursday night bloggers is on the Berkman Thursday meetings blog.
Disclaimer: I am reporting on events as I saw them. I am not endorsing any particular candidate through these reports and will try to refrain from endorsing or favoring any particular candidate on this blog.