Wednesday, May 14, 2008

McCain Event Part II: Mom on the Spot!

I know some of my readers want "straight talk" on the campaign, so here are my comments on the actual policy discussion. For those who want the 'scoop' on my first up-close-and-personal with the man, I share many thoughts here. Hopefully I’ll get to see him again as President!

This Tuesday, the kids went to Grandma's so Mommy could make the 45 minute pilgrimage to see John McCain in North Bend. The entire road to the surprisingly remote event was dotted with signs for McCain to read/see: Welcome Senator! Bring all our troops home! We support the 2nd amendment! Get the real facts about 9/11, etc! It was also cool to see homemade McCain signs on mailboxes (and yes, a few pro-Obama ones too). Free speech rocks - and makes rural windy-road driving much more interesting.

I arrived into the gaggle of media, including FoxNews (I met Carl Cameron!), CNN, every local affiliate, giant satellite trucks, the works. I *briefly* had a lump in my throat, I had no ticket and no documentation that I was actually part of the ‘media’ and I might get turned away. BUT I had committed to some faithful Moms that I would be there, so I had to make it happen! God sent me the very last parking space in the very last overflow area and a very friendly staffer who welcomed me warmly. (The local news prominently featured protesters, but I was there for almost 3 hours and honestly didn’t see any at all. Guess they went home as the rains increased, or the Secret Service scared them into the woods.)

I was thoroughly vetted by the Secret Service and arrived in a fairly small room, featuring large rented Hollywood-style lights and a gorgeous McCain banner with a Northwesty graphic of mountains and trees. (The guy next to me, a blogger from SoundPolitics, commented that 'you hear about how the campaign doesn't have any money, but you know that banner was expensive.' I said what I thought: there are times you skimp and times you don't, and when you're on national TV, you don't! Duh! Ladies this is why they need more of us in the media!)

I got to sit with Luke Esser, the Washington State Republican Party chair, Attorney General Rob McKenna (awesome guy working in a god-awful bureaucracy in Olympia). I briefly met former Senator Slade Gorton, who was wearing a very cool elephant-pattern tie and received kudos from McCain several times.

The panel table included several people, most interestingly:

- REI CEO Sally Jewell commented that "their competition isn't other outdoorsy companies, it's cable TV, video games and overscheduled families." She said "the average American child age 8-18 spends 46 hours a week in front of a screen and about 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play." Not sure this has any implications for McCain, or if it’s even true, but I thought it was interesting that she had 5 minutes with the future President and that’s what she emphasized.

- Will Mentor, a 17-yr-old Eagle Scout who discussed his salmon habitat restoration project. He spoke first and honestly made some of the best points. McCain praised him profusely for achieving Eagle Scout status, I got the distinct feeling if the reporters hadn't been there he would have ditched us all to go on a long hike with this kid. Kudos to you Will.

- Doug Sutherland, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands, mentioned that any federal ‘carbon standard’ could penalize states like ours which have done so much work already on our own (raising the baseline). This emphasized to me that more of the 'Green' regulation work needs to be done at the state level, which is in keeping with McCain’s federalist/state-oriented tendencies.

I also enjoyed meeting Tony, a campaign staffer who introduced me to Freddie, a dynamic gal who is active with Republican Latina women in Wenatchee/Eastern Washington. I don't know of all Freddie's accomplishments but she had fabulous red and black patent leather pumps (if Meghan and the Blogette team were there she definitely merited a mention!) I also met a nice young couple who had driven 3 hours from Chelan to meet McCain.

Aside from the actual policy discussed, I noticed a few things about McCain:

- He is a southpaw! I had no idea he was left-handed (as were 8 other Presidents, according to Yahoo, including Truman, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush 41).

- He really IS as genuine, approachable, down-to-earth as I expected. He honestly wasn’t too different when the ‘cameras were rolling’ and when they weren’t. He looked at-ease in his jeans and Navy cap just as he did in his suitcoat and dress shirt (no tie, this is Seattle after all).

- He was really more enthused to meet a military Dad (Greg, father of 7, including 2 currently serving in the Army) and a new Eagle Scout than the press corps and the bigwigs greeting him.

- For all the carrying on about his temper and hotheadedness he was very calm, genial, I never saw him get defensive even once, and this is a touchy subject for everyone at that table.

- McCain emphasized the importance of citizens’ own creative ideas to solve problems, giving several shout-outs to Meg Whitman’s energy-saving EBay staff and the people of New Hampshire (Andi and Mad you would have been proud!). I was pleased to hear him talking about personal responsibility in terms that even the crunchiest, most government-dependent people could understand.

I have to say this was a thorny issue on both sides and I think it was handled really well. If nothing else, I hope this gets otherwise unaffiliated voters to take a second look at the rest of McCain’s platform. All in all, despite the rain and not getting the official handshake photo (time for that when he's President!), it was a wonderful experience.

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