I think the last time I went to Reunion Arena was in the mid-1980's to hear Van Halen. It was a great show, and my ears were ringing for three days.
It will be longer than that before I can get Barack Obama's voice out of my head. I hope for change that the changed hope will change. We hope. Change. Hope. Changed Hope. Hoped for Change.
Because this morning, August 20th, 2008, I bravely descended into The Belly Of The Beast to hear Barack Obama at Reunion arena. (Photo from Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Lord have mercy, that man can work a crowd. (Estimated between 15,000 and 18,500, and they were pumped.)
It was the standard Obama stump speech, most of which we've heard before. If you've ever seen Hal Holbrook do "Mark Twain Tonight", where Holbrook knows about 6 hours of Twain material, and can select the best lines based on his mood, the audience mood, the weather, or what's happening in the rest of the world, then you get the idea.
Obama is sharp enough to freely roam around the stage, work without a net, no teleprompter in sight, drifting back to the podium only to riff on his new lines that reference John McCain instead of The Clintons.
With the exception of a few high school classes who were there for extra credit, the crowd was eating out of his hand and asking for seconds. 18,000 people showed up at noon on a Wednesday ! ! ! To hear a man who was a mere Illinois state senator a few years ago ! ! ! How in the world can The Clintons - armed with nothing but plans, programs, presidential pardons and pantsuits - expect to compete with this guy?
You can argue that The Clintons have more experience. But Obama was the one experienced enough, and smart enough, TO HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE FOR ALL THE STATES VOTING AFTER SUPER TUESDAY fer heaven's sake.
Obama's acknowledgement that McCain is "an American hero" always gets applause from his crowds, and it got a polite ovation today. His dig at The Clintons for rummaging through his kindergarten ambitions got a laugh.
I'm sure that a complete text of the speech will show up online somewhere. There were several jarring moments in the speech, and I could probably argue them all night, point by point. I don't have the exact wording, so I'll borrow this one bullet point from his website. It's close enough to what was said today:
Trade that Works for Workers – Obama will end tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas and give breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages here in America.
First of all, most of us are workers. We make trade choices that work for us all day every day. Some of us trade with Neiman Marcus, some of us trade with Goodwill. If more and more people chose to trade with Goodwill, do we need to put barriers in place to protect Neiman Markups? Who will decide? The people who can't reliably deliver Sports Illustrated to East Fort Worth?
Let's look at "shipping jobs overseas"....The people who make the George Foreman Grill, to name just one....did they ship the job overseas, or was the job born there? If the first prototype George Foreman Grill was made in California, but mass manufactured components are made in The Phillipines to be assembled back in the U.S., does that qualify as shipping the job overseas? How many inspectors will we hire to learn the answer? How much will we overpay per job saved?
Let's take it further....the tax breaks promised above....will they go to everyone who pays a dime more than minimum wage? 2x minimum wage? The increasingly popular "living wage"? Will it apply to babysitters? Waiters working for tips? Will it be my definition of "decent" or someone else's?
But still, I know that I left Reunion resolving to live a better life. I have no freakin' idea why.
But I have Hope. And Change. And as David Brooks has pointed out, at some point the magic is going to fade. We're going to have to figure out how to compete in a shrinking world without selling protection to the highest bidder.
Vendors were selling Obama merchandise outside the arena. T-shirts, buttons, caps, baby bibs were all on the tables. Walking back to my truck, I couldn't help but take a look at the tag inside the T-shirts.
Yep. Made in Bangladesh.
Update from 2-23-08....See David's post at "Law, Legislation, and Lunacy" for more of the same on Obama's Free Trade contortions.