August 18, 2004

An Afternoon With The President

I saw President Bush at the XCel Energy Center in Saint Paul today, along with the Elder and Saint Paul and Captain Ed, as well as my son Sam, and Drew, the son of Paul from Wog's Blog.

First, some observations. Then, the conclusions.

  • I was expecting a horror of lines, searches and metal detectors. In fact, the HUGE lines on Kellog and Seventh moves very fast, and all in all it was a lot easier to see the President than it was to get on an airplane the last time I flew.
  • The cops all had gas masks in musette bags belted to their right legs. I'm presuming this was in case tear gas was used - the cops were also warming up their riot gear as we waited in line.
  • Laura Ingraham, the MC for the day's event, did not shoot flames from her eyes. She was pretty sharp, however. And I had no idea that she used to clerk for Clarence Thomas!
  • We got some, not seats. We were in the standing area, on the floor. Good news; we were probably fifty feet from the President. Bad news; we stood there for nearly four hours by the time we were done
  • I think Ingraham was amazed at the welcome Senator Coleman got in the building he built; as she started her intro, a deafening chorus of "NOOOOORRRRMs" basically made any introduction moot - and she knew it. Coleman gave basically the same speech he gave at the MNGOP state convention - "the Top Ten Reasons to Vote for George W. Bush". It's a good stump speech, and you an expect to hear it a bunch more in the next 76 days.
  • Oh, yeah - I hope someone sends Al Franken a tape of the welome Coleman got. Maybe Franken'll stuff a sandwich in his mouth and stay in New York.
  • Randy Kelly is one great person; we're lucky to have him for a mayor. If I were Michael Savage, I'd wish on the air that the mental midget DFLers who are picking him to death in the City Council would choke on tainted clams and die. Fortunately, I'm not Michael Savage, so all I'll do is do the best I can to re-elect him.
  • The Secret Service agents were mostly wearing sportcoats, open-necked shirts, and no sunglasses, which surprised me. They did, however, look all business; beyond that, the female agent downstage right during the President's speech was incredibly hot - sort of like a Nia Vardalos who can rip your arm out of its socket, which is a very good thing. If you have contacts on the Secret Service, please pass the word.
  • The protesters outside as we left seemed downright disappointing by comparison. One flyeaten little moron stood at the corner of Eagle and Kellogg yelling "Re-elect the fascist!". "Yeah", I yelled. "Bring Back Hussein! Bring Back the Concentration Camps! Bring Back the Rape!". He skulked away in a cloud of patchouli. Perfect end to the day. Little scumbag.
The speech? The President gets knocked for being an inarticulate speaker, and he's no master of the language. But when he relaxes, he has the great political gift of being able to give you the feeling he's connecting with you, individually, throughout the audience. I felt like I made eye contact several times - and I suspect of the 20,000-odd people there a good percentage would say the same thing.

He stated his case the way he does it the best; simply, directly, and without embroidery.

And I'm starting, for the first time, to get the feeling that Bush can win this state; it's for certain that Kerry can't make any assumptions.

Wish list: Next time, the NARN should broadcast live from outside the event.

Posted by Mitch at August 18, 2004 08:41 PM | TrackBack

So, Fraters, it;s 9:35 PM. Where is my kid?

Oops, just found him under a rock by the garden gate.

Thanks for preserving him for us. 4 more years and he's on his own! '-)))

Posted by: Wog at August 18, 2004 09:36 PM


Wish I had tried to get a ticket with you. I was in the cheap seats. Then again, I liked having the OPTION of standing up.

Some scattered observations:

- Why doesn't the xcel have vending (food and drink) for something like this? They could turn a few bucks.

- Thank God for traffic noise and wind that muffled the sound of the angry left across the street. Same old same old: "No blood for oil."

- Then there were all the cars going by that honked their horns. I assume they were in favor of the protestors. Perhaps a form of of street theater?

- Favorite political t-shirt (worn by a little kid): My grandpa's voting for George W.

- We live in a rock music/celebrity driven world. Bush was not introduced by "Hail to the Chief" (perhaps protocol prohibits that in a campaign stop, I don't know), but with a sound and light pre-show worthy of a rock concert, or at least major sporting event. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but it was a bit unseemly. On the other hand, does every entertainment act at a Republican event have to be country or bluegrass? (Don't get me wrong, I like Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, George Jones, etc.)

- Did anyone else notice that the sound system was just awful? Laura Ingram's voice reached an unbearable volume and quality at times; the feed on various speakers occasionally faded out. Teamsters at work?

- I found the emphasis of some of the speakers on social issues a bit ... hmmm ... patronizing? Some of the greatest applause lines (I'm thinking of several speakers) had to do with "a Judeo-Christian ethic." Fine. But what about specifics?

Guchnect (who ought to spend less time bashing honorable profit-seeking businesses such as pharmacuticals) attacked John Kerry for being opposed to: "school prayer," "under God" in the pledge, an anti-flag burning amendement, and the unborn victims of violence act. The first three items are trivial (and I actually agree with Kerry in varying degrees, on each of those items); only the last had any bearing to the life issue. Kline mentioned the partial-birth abortion ban, but didn't go any further. Bush gave a wink and a nod on the issue of abortion; yet the pro-life movement has been a key element of the Republican voting block. Comments on marriage got huge amounts of applause (as they should), but they were oblique.

By the way, Kline mentioned the "under God" thing as well. (So why do Republicans defend a device--the pledge--that was the creation of a socialist?)

- Anyone else notice the absense of statwide Republican office holders -- Anderson (Auditor), Kiffmeyer (Sec State), Molnau (Lt. Gov.) and Pawlenty (Gov.) from the roster of speakers? I know that governors can't carry a state like they used to, but still ... Maybe this was to give extended time to Randal Kelly? (He did a great job, by the way--but how many people in the Xcel could actually vote for him? Aren't they mostly suburbanites?

- Sorry, but I thought that the "Teen Challenge" choir was ... hmm, not quite up to the quality that such an event deserved. On the other hand, they had a great soloist.

- Speaking of Teen Challenge ... Christians involved in politics? Great. On the other hand, I was a bit uncomfortable with people acting AS A Christian group as participants in a political rally. Some of the youngsters took their thundersticks and fashioned them into a cross and held them aloft during some speeches. I'm a Christian, but ... yikes. NOT at a political rally, please.

- I enjoyed the lines (from several folks) regarding America and its "European Allies." I know that a prudential case can be made for enlisting as many countries as we can. But if the president has to choose betweeen what he thinks is required for American security and what some other country thinks, he MUST go with the conclusion that he and his advisors have come to. I think Bush would benefit by playing up the "I will put America's security at the mercy of another country's approval" theme.

- One foreign policy theme was how life is better in Afghanistan and Iraq after U.S. military action there. Fine and good--I applaud that. But equally important--and from a policy point of view, more so--point is the value of pretmption: take out the bad guy in his neighborhood before he comes to yours. I think that point should get even more play that in already does. The link between tyranny and terrorism was well-made: we are expanding our own safety by helping other countries establish governments based in liberty.

- I thought that Norm gave (by far) the best speech of the "warm-up" acts. Is there a copy available online anywhere? The speech made points that others did not, it had great talking points, truth, grace, and wit. Five people immediately sitting next to me agreed.

- It's great to bring the kids, but did the 9 year old sitting in front of me really know the value of bringing health savings accounts into law? I kinda doubt it.

- Bush's speech reminds me that I like him as a person, and on foreign policy, but not necessarily on domestic. No Child Left Behind is serving some use, but education really shouldn't be the business of the federal government. His embrace of health care is great, but doesn't go far enough (e.g., eliminating the bias towards employer-controlled insurance).

Then there was "compassionate conservative" theme ... "It is important for governemnt to stand side-by-side with families." ... It's better that government not get in the way of families through high taxation levels, forcing children into monopolistic school systems that become the subjects of social engineering experiments, etc.

Oh well, one never gets what one wants in politics.

Posted by: the PolicyGuy at August 18, 2004 10:05 PM

Call me a weenie but the only thing I really hated was the country music. I stand behind it because of it's lyrics but ugh, I find it painful to listen to.
I was surprised at the reaction Coleman received (I'm still sore about Anwar) but I do still like him and I thought your Franken comment was pretty funny. I haven't thought that much about that race yet because I can't believe it. Franken, please. Hey, did you guys bring Ralphie?

Posted by: Jo at August 18, 2004 10:50 PM


If Bush does this again, you ought to make it a big NARN listener event. I couldn't make it today because the mother-in-law decided to show up for the first time in over a year (and with some relevance, her flight was delayed by Air Force One).

Happy to see John Kline included. I worked on his last unsuccessful (pre-redistricting) campaign against Smilin' Bill Luther. We lost by a single percentage point. He's a good guy. Not many I'd be willing to put in that kind of time for in a losing effort with no complaint.


Posted by: Doug at August 18, 2004 10:55 PM

Hey Mitch, I was at the XCel too and it was a great event. I too thought Randy Kelly's appearance and introduction of the president was priceless. Laura did a great job of firing up the crowd in between speakers, and getting in digs on Kerry-Edwards every chance she got. And Norm took the place by storm (maybe we should start callin him "Stormin Norman" too). I've posted a few pictures over at my blog ( for folks to catch some of the excitment.

Posted by: Dave Englund at August 18, 2004 11:13 PM

Policy Guy,

I went to the Bush Rally in Sioux City Ia this past Sat. We purchased two bottles of water for $5.00 The cashier started emptying them into tall drink glasses. We ask her not to, she told us the Secret Service would not allow them to give out the bottles. We took our glasses of water and got in line to enter the sitting area of the stadium. We were then told by the event staff the secret service would NOT allow any food or drink into the arena. We took a few big sips then threw them away. $5.00 down the drain!

Posted by: ordi at August 19, 2004 12:36 AM

A couple odd degrees of separation -- I have a friend whose cousin is an incredibly hot SS agent. As recently as last year she was assigned to veep detail and shooting pheasants in ND with the D-man, but maybe she's moved up to POTUS now...

Posted by: Odin at August 19, 2004 12:37 AM

I didn’t have a chance to go see the POTUS yesterday (too much work and reading after my first of law school) but I did get to see him at Mankato about two weeks before. The quarry we held our rally in probably wasn’t as nice as the Excel Energy center but we had a pretty good time.

Just some thoughts to give an idea of what he was like at other rallies:

I agree with Mitch about the POTUS’ ability to connect with individuals. There was a part where Bush talked about wanting support not only from Republicans but Independents and Democrats at which I point I held up my “Dems for Bush” sign and he looked directly at me and smiled. Okay it wasn’t exactly my sign but one of the signs that they handed out to volunteers. Actually come to think of it, they gave it to my brother originally but we ended up trading because he didn’t want people to think he was a Democrat ;)

We only had about a handful of protesters/Kerry Supporters and they were pretty subdued. The extent of their protest was to stand outside the entrance to the horse pasture where we parked our vehicles and hold up signs which read “GW PU” and “No Blood for Oil.” Pretty weak, it reminded me of the anti-Gingrich protesters of 1995 who held up “Medicare Cuts are Nazi Crimes” signs (I think I still kept one) when the Speaker came to town.

Our speakers were the Governor, Lt. Governor, Congressman Kline, Congressman Gutknecht, Senator Coleman, and some fellow who was a Vietnam veteran. There wasn’t much of a focus on social issues (I don’t think I hear abortion mentioned once) although one of the governor’s biggest applause lines was when he talked about “marriage being between one man and one woman.” The major focus of his speech and the other speaker’s was on national security and supporting the troops. I refused to applaud when he touted No Child Left Behind, the agriculture bill, or the Medicare prescription drug benefit but went broke out into exuberant applause when he talked about Social Security reform and the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush did emphasize the improvements and progress made in both countries as well as reiterate the point that it was better to fight them overseas than on our own soil.

All in all I liked it, but I agree with Policy Guy – Bush needs to better on domestic issues and the equation of government intervention with “compassion” turns my stomach. However my stomach can take quite a bit when you include a little antacid in the form of health care savings accounts, personal retirement accounts, expanded IRAs, tuition tax credits, FDA/EPA reform, tort reform, and a general focus on moving the middle and lower income groups towards more of an “ownership society” and less of a “nanny state society.”

Posted by: Thorley Winston at August 19, 2004 09:01 AM

How odd if this intersects with Odin -- but Lori's cousin is an incredibly hot Secret Service agent. Mitch, did she have supple dark brown hair and big eyes? (engaged, by the way. sorry.)

Posted by: Chuck Olsen at August 20, 2004 09:03 PM