Monday, December 8, 2003
Hardball, up close.
Mrs Philocrites is at Boston University tonight to hear Robert Pinsky and other celebrated writers read their work — and I was at the Kennedy School of Government to hear Wesley Clark! (What a great city . . . 25 inches of snow and all!)
I didn't have a ticket for the live broadcast of Hardball, but as I was getting off the train in Harvard Square (carrying a big ol' Clark 04 sign and wearing my Clark 04 button), a great guy from City Year named Aaron caught up with me and gave me an extra ticket. So rather than standing outside with other dedicated folks for the rally on the snowbanks, I ended up inside. It was my first time seeing Clark live — he was utterly charming, seemed much more personable than I had expected (you know, all the reports about how he "doesn't blink"), and generated a lot of really positive buzz.
My favorite line in the evening actually came in the middle of an awkward bit of questioning from Chris Matthews about Clark's inexperience in politics. (Keep in mind: He was addressing an audience of government students and political junkies.) Clark was arguing that even Bill and Hillary Clinton aren't just looking out for themselves; he was trying to argue — to a roomful of students of Machiavelli, you could say — that politicians do have a more fundamental sense of patriotism and civic responsibility beyond their self-interest. Seemed a treacherous path to go down, I thought. But then he said something marvelous. He started talking about what motivates people to volunteer for campaigns, what motivates them to run for the school board and the thousands of other local offices, what motivates them to participate in public service in all its forms.
"This country runs on patriotic energy," he said. His campaign slogan — "New American Patriotism" — is rooted deeply in his personal experience, and it connects with the desire to serve the commonweal that so many of us felt so keenly after 9/11 and that our government barely acknowledged. That feeling is part of what motivates Americans of every political persuasion to get involved. It took a second to grasp that he wasn't just trying to slip out of a question about his relationship to two of the more obviously calculating political creatures of our time; he was drawing a much more important connection between his motivation for serving in the military and the motivation of millions of Americans who serve their country by investing time and energy and great care in our democratic process. "This country runs on patriotic energy." Loved it.
A lot of Democrats are buzzing that the nomination is already wrapped up. How ironic for a democratic party to talk this way before a single vote has been cast! And yet many people even in New Hampshire are just getting acquainted with the candidates. In my conversations with friends and even with strangers on the subway, it's clear that most people know only a handful of things about any of the candidates. I'm convinced that the more people know about Clark, the stronger he'll appear as a candidate.
Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 8 December 2003 at 11:17 PM