Tag Archives: al franken

Rally Time!

31 Oct

Last night, my wife and I went to a rally for Al Franken’s senate campaign…the draw: Bill Clinton was coming to town.  It was my second rally of the year; the first was last week I took my son to see Hillary Rodham Clinton when she came to town to goose the Franken campaign.  

I come to these things as a sort of tourist. I just can’t bring myself to get truly revved-up-fist-pumping-slogan-shouting over — as  President Clinton artfully called it — “some whoop-de-do political speech.”  Anyway, I know who I’m going to vote for, but heck — last week it was Hillary and this week it was Bill and my wife wanted to see what the fuss was about.  

So we got there at a decent time and carved out a spot in the crowd with a pretty good sightline.  And after two rallies this year, some observations: 

 

  1. If you go to one of these things, expect to stand.  A lot. Since it was the former president and we were lined up in front of the auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center, a few of us had the thought that we might get to sit in the auditorium. But you don’t want 5000 volunteers, partisans, celebrity hounds and curious folks who just want their kid to get a glimpse of the former president to be photographed lolling about in auditorium seats.  You want them standing, shouting, cheering and waving signs proclaiming that Obama+Franken=Change to stamp out that ticket-splitting idea promulgated by that silly old StarTribune! 

    So we stood. 
     

  2. These events aren’t exactly run like well-oiled machines.  They start early and end late — timed to finish in time for the 10 pm news (they failed on this one by the way.  WCCO had its reporter talking over Clinton live).  You get your warm-up acts — mayors, representatives, state officers.  Then you get a break. Then you get Walter Mondale, a nice surprise.  Then you get Sen. Klobuchar, and then a recorded Al Gore speech.  Eventually, Franken and Clinton arrive.  We’d been standing for 3 hours at this point.
     
  3. You can really tell who in the party’s ‘big leagues’ at these rallies. They speak in ways that are not just smooth and practiced, but passionate and controlled.  They’re confident, comfortable in their own skin. They tell stories that flow effortlessly from funny to personal to issues to the big picture.

    My take from afar? Though she’s not running this year, Minnesotans will have the chance to vote for Sen. Amy Klobuchar for a long time.  And Minneapolis’ R.T. Rybak seems to have matured over his years in the mayor’s office … strong speaker, and comfortable working the lines outside, too.

  4. There are a few Democrats who haven’t gotten the message about rising above identity politics.  Rep. Keith Ellison, for example, felt the need to give a shout out to the usual laundry list of Democratic ‘communities.’ Sounds 1980s to me. The Democratic message resonates strongest when it speaks to us as individuals with common issues and aspirations, rather than communities with interests.
     
  5. Al Franken comes across far better in speeches than he does in debates or ads.  Granted, it’s a good crowd  for him.  But the guy is engaging. He’s clearly smart. And he’s funny, but in ways that get you thinking.  Moreover, he never talks about himself – never says his own name. Never even says “vote for me.”  He talks about his audience, and he talks about issues. 

  6. Watching Clinton, I can’t help but compare him to the Republican vice presidential nominee. Clinton isn’t shy with the y’all’s.  He apologizes for not giving a “whoop-de-do political speech”.  He’s not being folksy.  He is folksy – and frighteningly conversant on issues from the financial crisis to national security. 

At times, Clinton dances on the edge of being condescending or didactic, but largely, it works … you’ve got to respect what he he has to say (and besides, as my mother-in-law says, “he’s a very handsome man). 

    At 700 words, I’ll stop here… a few more thoughts tomorrow on politicians as public speakers. Thanks for reading! 

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    Thank You Note to a Journalist-Blogger: Eric Black

    7 Aug

    If you can be a fan of a daily newspaper reporter, I’ve been a fan of Eric Black’s for almost 20 years.  At some point, the StarTribune here in the Twin Cities was publishing long feature stories that actually offered in-depth historical context for national and world events:  The first Iraq War, the Israeli-Arab conflict, the Balkans, Bosnia, the fall of the Soviet Union, not to mention various and sundry politicians — you name it.

    And it seemed whenever I’d sink my teeth into one of these big juicy history stories — stories that cut through the daily rhetoric to hone in on the something closer to a complicated truth — the byline read “Eric Black”.  So I’d look for the byline, at times swearing at stories where background was scant and context lacking and grumble, “Where the hell’s the Eric Black story on this?”

    It’s pretty clear these days that this sort of journalism isn’t making it into my daily paper any more … and neither is Eric Black.  Over the past few years, he’s plied his trade in local blogs.  Most recently, that’s MinnPost, a non-profit venture promoting the idea that professional journalists have a great deal to offer when given the freedom to explore the news and offer an opinion or two.

    I write this after spending a half-hour or so learning as much (or more) than you ever wanted to know about the stance of two Minnesota senate candidates on the Iraq war.  It’s a story you’ll never read in a newspaper, built from in-depth research, nearly hour-long interviews with the candidates themselves and fact checking that is both independent and allowed the candidate’s PR staff to offer assist (incidentally peeling back the veil of how reporters work with a PR staff to facilitate a story). Further, if you’re worried that Black has misinterpreted your favorite candidate, he offers audio downloads of the interviews themselves.

    In other words, anyone who wants to spend the time with this story gets:

    • a comprehensive view of the candidates’ positions — both now and how they have evolved (or not) over time.
    • the chance to hear the candidates’ responses to sharp, informed questions in their own voices.
    • a deeper understanding of how reporters do their jobs, warts and all — and how a good one takes nothing for granted on what his interviewee claims he said or didn’t say.
    • a deeper understanding of how campaign staffs work and how PR facilitates a reporter’s work.

    As I said, you don’t see this kind of depth often out of daily newspapers — no doubt, there’s no time, no staff and no appetite for it.  And maybe this much depth isn’t necessary.  But in a time when it feels like everyone is spinning, nothing is genuine, no one knows the truth, Black the journalist-blogger is offering transparency, rigor, insight … and the whole complicated, messy truth.

    So…thank you.

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