Thursday, July 31, 2008

(Not so) straight talk from the maverick himself

I'm leaving this internship with a BANG. A few interns and I were asked to infiltrate a McCain town hall in Racine today to ask a question about birth control that he has been skirting. A few weeks ago he went under fire for being unable to explain why he voted to let employers cover prescriptions like Viagra without covering birth control pills or other forms of contraception. It's been the subject of a pretty intense ad campaign from Planned Parenthood.

The "maverick" is actually a pretty straight shooter when it comes to his voting record on choice. Whether it's birth control, sex ed, or abortion rights, he pretty much opposes anything that doesn't involve a whole lotta abstinence. It's become an unpopular topic so he has really been avoiding it on the campaign trail.

The ladies and I decided to channel the ice queen herself in order to look less assuming so we opted for anything that screamed "tightass"- pencil skirts, pearls, heels, button downs, turtlenecks, and headbands. After driving for over two hours to get to Racine, we were being filed into a hall when we saw a man from a fellow progressive org holding up a huge "McSame" sign... he definitely recognized us and so we were grateful when he didn't call us out in the crowd. He began riling up the people who were coming in as well, and eventually there was a "Where's O-Sama?/ "Let's go FIND him" chant overtaking the crowd. It was all I could do to not cry that I was somehow being roped in with these fine people. There were a few guys behind us that were college aged, and one girl made the comment, "I'm not used to being horrified by cute men at political rallies. I have to remember where I am."

We arrived late, and were placed in the last row on the first level. Though it seemed unlikely that we would be called on, we decided to stick with it, and sat taking everything in. We marveled at the sign that stated "Wisconsin Welcomes John and Cindy McCain" because it meant that Cin was present and accounted for! Our muse, right there in the midst of Raycilla. As we listened to a rousing live rendition of Proud to Be an American, followed by Johhny B. Good, we were approached by an official looking man in a suit.

"How many of you ladies are in your party today?"

We all started sweating. Clearly someone had spotted the Pro-Obama, Pro-Choice sticker on Julianne's car, and had put us on the blacklist. We meekly stated that there were three and he asked us to follow him out of the auditorium. Did they have a facial recognition scanner that knew I was the same person who wrote this? Our minds were full of questions as the Secret Service officer moved back and a McCain staffer came up and told us that they were looking for people to fill the VIP seats that had yet to be taken. (Read: they were hastily scrambling to make it look like a diverse crowd with people under the age of fifty.) I was shaking like a mad person as I was thanked up and down by the members of the McCain staff for my presence and enthusiasm as I joined them in the front row of the entire auditorium. I looked around and realized that my seat was three down from the Milwaukee County Exec and five from the chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. A young senator offered to take a picture of the three of us, remarking that it was our lucky day. He had no idea how lucky, but we agreed with him wholeheartedly.

The band finished and the area in the center of all of us was cleared. I held my breath as they placed the podium directly in front of my chair. If, as I suspected, Johnny B. Good was going to be standing by the podium the majority of the time, then I was going to be second closest body to him in the entire auditorium. Closer even than the Secret Service agent who was busy scanning the crowd the entire speech.

Senator and Mrs. McCain came out to a lot of applause, which died down rather quickly in comparison to the Obama rallies I have been to. I was surprised to see that he actually looks younger in person as well. As for the ice queen, she is even more plasticized than I was expecting, and weighs about eighty pounds. She was also wearing these ridiculous bedazzled pins that said "USMC" and "NAVY" on them, which just kind of weirded me out. I know that her sons serve in these branches but her pins were made of rhinestones. She looked like the world's creepiest stage mom. The man who introduced her also managed to include a tidbit about her helping to run "the family business". If I didn't know that she was actually the chair of one of the biggest Anheuser Busch distributors in the country, I would have assumed that her Hensley and Co. was a struggling mom n' pop shop not far from Racine.

Sen. McCain gave a short intro before he started fielding questions. He made a few attempts at jokes which made him seem like less of someone I would never vote for. It's just the lack of sincerity in his voice that troubles me, and his eyes don't sparkle when he talks. He doesn't seem to buy his own words, which is hard to take. I am adamantly opposed to most of what he says... but even when he promises to increase solar and wind energy, it gets about 1/10 of the applause as when he talks about increasing off-shore drilling. If I were to guess why, I'd say it's because he is not good as selling things he isn't passionate about. If I were to guess again, I'd say that wind energy is pretty low on the totem pole.

So, the questions. We opened with a question about whether he would help solve the Packers dispute, then went directly to a man who got booed off for trying to bait him about governing with the Bible as his guide. We talked school vouchers, the Israeli prime minister resignation, rising tuition costs, and foreign oil dependency. Apparently, the only thing all of these issues have in common is that Obama wants to add a tax to them.

Then Senator McCain walked right up to Julianne and handed her the mic. Kelly whipped out her camera to document what was supposed to be the highlight of our day. "Senator McCain, I am a young woman about to enter the work force and I am worried that my employer will not cover all of my health care needs. A few weeks ago you were asked why you supported a bill that allowed employers to cover prescriptions like Viagra but not women's birth control. Now that you have had time to look into this issue, can you tell us your opinion on that?"

The straight talk express has run out of gas. His answer was that it should be up to the person buying the coverage (which could be construed as either the employer who chooses the plans available or the employee who chooses their plan out of the available ones, I suppose.) Not exactly an answer that explained his three Senate votes that allowed for horny old men to cure their ED while women were forced to pay skyrocketing prices for contraception. Yet it was not a glowing endorsement of contraceptive options either. Unlike the rest of his questions, where he stumbled back onto his main talking points after deflecting or answering the question sufficiently, McCain then immediately handed the mic to a safe looking vet behind us. Our moment in the sun was over. I'm happy to report that his lame answer got the smallest applause of the afternoon.

He wrapped it up soon after. I shook his hand two times and looked him in the eye as he thanked me for my attendance. Cindy gave a full handshake with an additional hand on top of our two intertwined hands, as if to prove that she was even more thankful for my attendance. I was busy staring at her pins. All around us, true supporters were perfectly pleasant to us as we left. It seemed like our question was not obviously anti-McCain enough, which is maybe a good thing.

We made sure to make up for our day as frauds by shit talking his answers the whole way to the car. I took the McCain sticker off my shirt, where I had been forced to place it when a staffer handed me one directly off the roll. I noticed that I had put it on the right half of my chest, which seemed fitting. That man doesn't have much of a place in my heart. He is, however, not as awful as I was expecting. Those are kinder words than I've ever spoke about W.

Until next time, enjoy the very freshly downloaded video that Kelly put up of Julianne sticking it to the mav.


Emily Anne said...

You are so hardcore. I love it.

Teresa said...

Why were you wearing that turtleneck and headband instead of your hot pants??