My Memories Of Presidential Candidates In Wisconsin

There was every reason to be focused today on the current presidential election as Air Force One landed at the Dane County Airport.  Thousands of enthusiastic people stood in line at UW-Madison to get a chance to get close to the staging area where President Obama pumped them up with stirring oratory, and important reasons to vote.

As all this played out today my mind kept bouncing back over the years since I moved to Madison over a quarter-century ago, and started to attend political rallies.  My interest in how the candidates operate, handle themselves, stage events, and construct their arguments never grows old.  Working at the Capitol allowed me to be near the events that took place as candidates came to make friends and seek votes.

But before I landed in Madison I was working at WDOR in Sturgeon Bay where I was dispatched to cover the Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro rally in Merrill, Wisconsin.

On Labor Day 1984 I was attending what would be the first major political rally of my life, and the first such large news story I would report on for WDOR news.  The second one was when President Reagan visited Oshkosh.

In 1984 I was young, eager, and so excited that I could barely contain myself.  Days before the event I had gone through a background check to gain press credentials which allowed me onto the risers with the national press.  Knowing I was going to stand alongside some of the journalists I had deep respect for was as electrifying to me as being at my first major political rally with a presidential nominee.

Once at the rally site I climbed to stand with the press and was truly pleased to be about three feet from Lynn Sherr and Brit Hume, both from ABC.  I smiled to myself when Sherr asked Hume how to pronounce “La Follette” and I then laughed out loud later than night when she mispronounced it on the national news.   Everyone has on-air slips, and it was comforting to see it play out in front of me.

To be honest being on the risers with the press could have been the culmination of the day and I would have been totally content.

When the music ramped up and Mondale and Ferraro took the simple outdoor platform and gave punchy dramatic stump speeches I knew at once that my political infection was for real.  Never before had I felt so alive.  So in the moment.

Over and over during the past decades I have been one fortunate man to be close to the ones that fascinate me.

From that list I have grabbed a few that stood out, and made me smile today.

In 1988 one of the nicest and most sincere of candidates ran for the presidency.

Illinois Senator Paul Simon was perhaps the most approachable politician I have ever met.  It was as if he worked on the Capitol Square and had just wandered over for an afternoon stroll with state workers.   He chatted and bantered as if he had known the folks who came to see him for many years.  Simon was an editor-publisher of a newspaper, and had liberal ideas.  Is there a better combination? There were many reasons I gravitated towards his candidacy.

I did not only attend Democratic events, but also wanted to witness the movers and shakers in the Republican Party.  I was very delighted to be able to get close to Vice-President Bush as he campaigned in the spring of 1988 in Madison.

It was a Saturday morning and I was standing along staunch Republicans while having the time of my life.  I had never before been so close to such a powerful figure.  I still recall, and there is no partisanship in this additional thought, but he had the softest hands on a man I have ever felt.

Of all the politicians I have seen over the years the one I saw most often was Bush 41.  My nephew Troy and I were able to shake hands with both President Bush and Barbara in Waukesha after a rally as we moved up to the rope line in 1992.

But the most politically romantic event was yet to come….

October 31, 1992, was a cold and blustery day across Wisconsin.  Light snow flurries swirled through the air as many thousands stood for hours at the old train depot in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.   The presidential campaign that year was winding down, and even though President Bush was campaigning with David McCullough’s latest book “Truman ” in his hand while reminding voters that he too could win the election as Harry did in 1948, the polls were all indicating the opposite.  In later news accounts and books all would discover that it was that frigid day in Wisconsin when President Bush was told of his fate by his internal pollsters.    In spite of that there were still campaign stops to be made, as Bush was traveling Wisconsin by train, while working over-time at trying to making his Truman moment come true.

I had secured enough tickets from a Republican friend at the Capitol for most of my entire family to be able to stand in the very front of the staging area at the Plover train depot.

My Mom and Dad surely had doubts about standing in line for several hours  to see the event, but I also know they loved it. They talked about that day for the rest of their lives.

In 1992 I attended a rally at the statehouse for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.  Months after the election the photographer for the Assembly Democratic Caucus came to my office and told me he had finally developed all the pictures he had taken the evening of the rally—and thought I might be interested in the one he then handed to me.

I treasure this picture very much.  I have outlined it for this post, and it shows me with my hand at the bottom of the blue line reaching up for Clinton’s hand.  I had the handshake of both Clinton and Gore that night.

In 2004 I was able to meet two of the candidates I much respected, and thought to be worthy of attaining the presidency.

For pure passion I felt Howard Dean was the best at presenting the feisty Democratic argument for why Bush 43 had to be defeated, but for the long-term race that was required from a nominee it was John Kerry that I placed my hopes in.

There is no way for me not to get rather nostalgic tonight as I think back to all the fun times and smiling faces of those I stood with as we watched and listened to the candidates.  There is something about the fall leaves and chill in the air every four years as candidates ask for our votes for the White House that lets me know how fortunate I have been to be able to see and hear so many of the contenders.

More importantly I am constantly reminded of the ones who put themselves in front of their fellow citizens with their candidacies in an attempt to make our country a better place to live.

For them and their service to this country I say thank you.

From 2010 at UW-Madison, Library Mall.

Air Force One As Seen From B.B. Clarke Beach In Madison, Wisconsin

This was a rush!

Shortly after 5:00 P.M. Air Force One lifted off over the city and left for Washington, D.C.  I figured that one of the places to view this was just steps from home.  While standing on the shore of Lake Monona one of those memories that will last a very long time took place.  The roar of a serious aircraft could be heard, and then the sight of the large jet lifting and banking into the sky.

It brought a lump to the throat, and with it a heartfelt thanks for all that President Obama has done for this nation.

Air Force One “The Flying White House” Lands And Leaves Madison, Wisconsin

Hat Tip To Rail Pro for the shots of Air Force One landing.

It has been an amazing day in Madison as President Obama arrived for a campaign rally at UW-Madison.  Everywhere in this city there was excitement and discussion about this all important election, and the campaign visit by a sitting president.

It all started at the Dane County Airport where the massive “Flying White House” brought our leader to the city.

Shortly after 5:00 P.M. Air Force One lifted off over the city and left for Washington, D.C.  I figured that one of the places to view this was just steps from home.  While standing on the shore of Lake Monona one of those memories that will last a very long time took place.  The roar of a serious aircraft could be heard, and then the sight of the large jet lifting and banking into the sky.

It brought a lump to the throat, and with it a heartfelt thanks for all that President Obama has done for this nation.

One Million Moms Can Not Stop “The New Normal”

If you want to watch one of the most affirming shows on television then take time each week to laugh and be charmed by NBC’s The New Normal.

Bigots and small-minds which comprise ‘ One Million Moms’ attempted to stop the show from proceeding forward.  One Mormon-owned TV station in Salt Lake City has even refused to air the show!  WOW.  Just wow.

Meanwhile American television viewers  across the heartland and on each coast have said no to the bigotry, and turned into the show that now is a must view each week.  The ratings have been fantastic.

As such NBC has ordered a full season of its gay-themed comedy.

“Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler have created a truly unique family in The New Normal that is reflective of the changing dynamics of the world we live in”. NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement.

The show is about a blended family created by a gay couple and the surrogate mother having their baby.

Maybe Salt Lake City Mormons will let it air once it is syndicated in a few seasons.  In the end they will want money from the ad buys this show will produce.

Mitt Romney’s Abrasive Attitude Towards Jim Lehrer Makes GOP Candidate A Small Man

I am not one of the crowd that is taking Jim Lehrer to the woodshed this morning.

In fact, I have a totally different perspective as I outlined this morning on my blog.

When campaigns set up the rules they agree to abide by when it comes to the debates, and then pretend those rules do not exist it can only be seen as a small moment for a candidate.

Such was the case of Mitt Romney.

I think Mitt’s father would not be amused or understanding of the tone taken last night against the debate moderator.


Jim Lehrer Did Not Fail As Moderator, President Obama Did Not Debate As Energetically As Needed

This morning the reviews are coming in from all sources about the performance of President Obama during the presidential debate.  None are the type Democrats want to read.

But equally scathing are the reviews about the moderator, Jim Lehrer.  Many are expressing dismay with his performance during last night’s presidential debate.  Before I get to the thrust of this post there needs to be some background.

I have been watching Jim Lehrer on PBS from the time I was in high school, when the program that is now the NewsHour was only 30-minutes, and was co-anchored with Robert MacNeil.  I can say with all honesty I absolutely love Jim Lehrer, and have the utmost respect for his journalistic capabilities and insight.

I understand many wish some of those things I find so remarkable about Lehrer would have been more on display during the debate.

I would argue for the most part they were.

Many pundits had felt Leherer would demand specifics, and make the debate as informative as possible.  But if one looks at the topics covered, and the amount of facts and figures thrown out from each candidate it is hard to argue that the debate was not substantive.

One can always argue–and I d0–about some of the facts thrown out by Mitt Romney–but that is the nature of any debate.

Many feel the best debate is where the moderator is more a potted plant on the stage, and not a main player.  I am sure Lehrer was intending to be more demanding in getting more topics covered, and more specifics presented for the viewers.

But with the abrasive way Romney ran over the rules and the moderator it is hard to fault Lehrer to the extent many are doing this morning.

The focus of any angst over the debate must be placed at the feet of the two candidates on the stage.

President Obama is someone I am truly impressed with.  I find his intellect refreshing, and his ability to reflect and analyze complicated matters one of his strongest assets.  While he was not my first choice in the 2008 Democratic primaries–nor was Hillary Clinton—Obama won me over with his smarts.  Pure and simple.

I wanted that man who wowed a nation in 2008 to step out on the debating stage last night, and push the facts.  I understand that a national campaign of this type is draining, and that there is no way for me to know the extent that the job he has wears and tugs at every ounce of his energy every day.

Yet the debate was the moment where Mitt Romney needed to be put into  a corner that he could never recover from.  The twisted ideas and flawed logic that Romney has touted for months needed to be contained once and for all.

The person who could have done that job last night was President Obama.

Placing blame this morning on Jim Lehrer is not fair.  He is not the person who was supposed to take the fight to Mitt Romney.