Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Day One San Francisco

Okay we just left San Francisco and that was an awesome rally! The local radio did a lot to promote the rally, and why wouldn’t it when this is where Melanie has listeners.

When we drove up, we were pretty late. It was my first time ever being in San Francisco and I know I definitely do not want to live here!!! I think I find most of the charming little things about it annoying such as the whole steep grades up and down everywhere, and those houses built on an uneven foundation. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think those details are charming as well, but I just don’t like them from a perspective of living there.

Amazingly though…I saw a several heterosexual couples walking around. Very reassuring.

When we reached Nancy Pelosi’s office in downtown San Francisco I was absolutely amazed at how many people turned out and they were just waiting for us. They were also very eager to greet us. As we arrived they began cheering and waving flags with such fervor and enthusiasm that it immediately lifted my heart and reinvigorated my body. I was immediately energized to jump out the vehicle and literally run with a table in my hands ( a heavy one ) to the front of Pelosi’s office to set up quickly. Ryan was equally super-human in his performance…given the fact that we all got about three hours of sleep last night! Ryan had the audio up before I even knew what was going on and he was already running tests. Diana started into her introductory song and people were already curiously walking up to the tables and asking about shirts and magnets.

I enlisted the help of one young gentleman who was one of the first to approach the bench. He purchased a small t-shirt and I handed him a big stack of American flags and asked if he would help hand them out to people. Usually I have time to do this myself, but because Diana was already singing we had to give people some things to wave right away! He gave many out, but a lot of the people here had their own flags, it seems the conservative Americans in San Francisco always come prepared.

This must be the natural result of a section of people living in a strange alien land, one rife with cultural and sociological quirks that would offend the typical morays of Americans elsewhere. A conservative living here would always have to be on guard, for at any time someone could challenge their views if their ‘cover is blown’ and they find out “Hey, this guy here is a conservative!” Living here you would constantly be forced to reflect on your own views and explain your views to others and make them understand your way of thinking.

That’s probably why the people of San Francisco who ARE conservative are among the most conservative, and who feel the most strongly in what they believe. I would presume that it’s also why the College Republicans at Berkeley are the most hardcore, dedicated group in the Republican Federation of College Republicans. I am sure the College Democrats here are very strong, but that strength would lie in numbers whereas the members of the College Republicans – whom we assume are more conservative – are battle hardened and the most effective in articulating their beliefs.

I recall the story of the College Democrats in the city of Austin, TX where I went to school to get my Bachelor’s. I was very good friends with at least a dozen members of that organization and so I heard all the stories…power struggles, ugly egos, laziness, infighting and a lack of commitment. In short, malaise.

Thank you Jimmy.

The rally went well. The stories are the same and our speakers did a great job, just as they did in every other rally today. This time though, each speaker took particular note that we were in front of The Speaker’s Office. These people wanted Nancy out BAD! Seriously, watch out Nancy. Deborah Johns talked a lot about taking our country back from partisanship and holding our leaders on BOTH sides of the aisle accountable. I can think of several names here. Pelosi, Reid, Barbara Boxer who has said some of the most ridiculous and offensive things I have heard from a politician. I also think about Senators D’Amato and Ron Paul. Some of them supported the war then flopped on it; some have always been against the war. In any case they are lobbying to pull troops out prematurely and in such a way that seriously threatens our national security, not to mention abandoning the Iraqi people, almost defenseless, into the waiting jaws of vicious civil war and oppressive theocracy. In my opinion, and this is a personal one, they all deserve to lose their offices.

We had to wrap up in San Fran very quickly because someone got word over the phone that the Modesto location had people and press waiting around for us already.

So I would call San Francisco an absolute success, with one caveat, that there were no cameras or reporters around. This is a shame because it was a great rally and is likely something that happens only rarely in a place like San Francisco.

I’m on the road with Ryan again. I swear this guys going to kill me on this trip. But with all the traffic I was noticing in the City by the Bay, I can see why he drives so crazy. You have to zip in and out of everything and around everyone. Anyways, we’re debating about the pros and cons of the Judicial Branch being in conflict with the Executive on a policy decision. Ryan is convinced that the executive should always enforce and uphold a decision. I am tempted to say that depending on the situation it is more constitutional for a President to protect the people, national security or the common good in a situation where a Supreme Court decision is potentially harmful or that it’s negative consequences are more of a detriment than it is unconstitutional for a President to refuse to uphold a supreme court decision. It seems we both agree that this is why the Legislature is around for balancing and that history shows the Legislature almost always drops the ball when it would be advantageous to intervene.

Anyways we are now going to eat or something. They’re changing things up. Not sure why. Will get back to y’all.

Day One - Sacramento

After leaving Sacramento we hit traffic. And I mean TRAFFIC.
We were already late. This did not to happen to us!!! The traffic was horrible! Labor day people…LABOR DAY. Come on now. You know you need to get back to work on Tuesday…what are you doing still up in the mountains at 1:00 and waiting in traffic. Y’all should have come home yesterday! So anyways we roll into Sacramento like an hour and a half late. Possibly later than that…I’ll try to find out and fix this post later. But the point is we were late, really late. Really, really late.

We were getting calls on the road from Donald, Robert and Doug, waiting at the rally, and trying to keep the people from leaving. The radio station 101.7 The Wolf was there and from what I hear they did a lot to help keep people entertained and busy while we were on the way in. I believe what happened was The Wolf had printed and a bunch of cards for the troops and I think they were asking people to fill those out while waiting for us to arrive.
The way the traffic worked out, our caravan got split up a bit and as it turned out Diane Nagey arrived at the next Rally before us. I was on the phone with Don telling him that Diane was ahead of us and I heard him say “Oh this might be them pulling up right here and I could already here people cheering in the background.

We pulled in not too far after and I was very pleased to see that although the media had left us and the Wolf was forced to pack up all their equipment (they were running on a large capacity battery and it just ran out of juice) that there were still at least 100 to 150 people still hanging around. Ryan parked one of the trucks up ahead and Joe and I parked our truck a bit further back just because we wanted to give the RV room to get a good parking spot. Joe stayed behind to find a better place for the truck and I jumped out and ran up to see what I could unpack.

As I was running by I saw the local squadron of Young Marines doing some maneuver for the crowd. It was pretty crazy because as I went by they were doing their marine shouts and it actually scared me because they seemed to have these crazy, bellowing voices. But they looked like little kids. So we basically unpack
everything in a frantic rush; nobody speaks to one another, we just grab whatever we know is needed out of the truck and run towards the spot.

I grabbed a table at first, and then I started bringing out shirts and books. I think that since Ryan is the obvious audio set up guy, I am the de-facto everything-else-guy. That usually means t-shirts, magnets and things of that nature, as well as the sheet and markers and stuff. So I get everything set up and immediately we were selling shirts. Anne helped me with the shirt sales, THANKS ANNE!!!!

They also started the show immediately and everyone kind of sat down and listened. It was basically the same as Sacramento except that we didn’t have Duncan Hunter and we had a different MC who was Mark Williams.

Mark introduced Melanie and Buzz, Melanie gave her speech. Buzz talked about the war, Debbie and Deborah told the stories of their sons’ service to the country and especially about the need for national unity and the committment to see past partisanship. We had to try and wrap everything up really quickly because after starting the Rally in Sacramento late we were going to be late for San Francisco. Not to mention today one of the bridges is out. So there’s more traffic on the remaining ones. Awesome.

Of course everyone signed the VICTORY BLANKET (well...it's really just a sheet) too!

At the very end of the rally, THE WOLF gave us some cards to take to the troops! THANKS!

We packed everything up, also in a frenzied state of confusion. Everyone just snapped into action, if they saw something on the ground that they recognized or that had the words “Move America Forward” on it, we threw it in the back of the trucks. Obviously the trucks are mess now. So unpacking in San Francisco I am assuming is going to be tricky.

We are on our way now.

I took my sweet time to start writing this blog. We got into a little confusion with the GPS systems on the way. Apparently we weren’t sure whether to believe it or not. And finally I was able to get it to detour and pick a different route and we were confident in where we were going. We’re right now driving through something called North Beach or what Ryan tells me was once known as the ‘Italian district’

Oh hey…I just saw my first GLBTQ Rainbow flag flying over some little cafĂ©. Super.

Hopefully we are getting close to our rally point, which I believe is near Pelosi’s office. And we’re only 9 minutes late. That’s awesome because Ryan and I were just talking about how late we were and about how much extra time we budgeted for each commute, and whether it’s sufficient or not.

Alright, looks like its show time for the San Francisco show pretty soon here, we’ll see you guys later.

Day One - Carson City, NV


That was absolutely amazing.

I totally remember now why I like this kind of thing. I got up at about 6:30 and by the time everyone was assembled we were running just a little bit late. By the time we were able to get going finally, it was a little past 8. Duncan Hunter and crew were already there.

I seriously wonder what kind of suits these guys wear…and where they buy’em. They are so nice! Hunter looked awesome and he was already talking with people.

When we got all the trucks and vehicles in, there were people showing up in a steady stream. It was well before 9 am. Immediately Ryan jumps to work on setting up the podium and the audio equipment. I was running around like crazy. This group from Carson City was there to sell cookies, doughnuts, and drinks to raise money for the troops. I forget the name of them… Oh wait it’s in this picture let me look…

Operation: First Response.

Nice people but they had a lot of stuff and they needed help setting it up. So Joe basically loans me out... “Oh yes sure, we’ll help you…DANNY! Help these people set up!”

Thanks Joe. It was cool though, they had a nice canopy in the shade it was very pleasant and everyone lent a hand setting everything up.

By this time there were already people showing up to protest US and I could already see small groups of people shooting remarks back and forth. Lovely. I began to think this was going to get ugly. Luckily thought I noticed at least 3 local sheriff’s deputies milling around and I stopped and thanked them for coming by to make sure order was preserved. I then busied myself bringing out shirts and such, setting up our table with all our goodies and the sheet for people to sign. It seemed like we took our time getting the show on the road, and I think that was because we set up the audio equipment way out in the field where there were no trees…just hot sun. I could tell people were reluctant to come out from under the great shade they were enjoying on the other side of the park.

But then Ryan hit the play button and Diana took up her microphone and opened into the most beautiful rendition of the star spangled banner you have ever heard. People took note and began moving towards the area. I was running around passing flags out to people and encouraging people to sign the sheet. I didn’t know where anyone else was.

Ryan was up front on the audio equipment.

I could not find Joe or Sal, I am sure they were off somewhere talking to press or directing our people what to do and where to be.
Mary I did not see anywhere. I assume that’s because she never stopped moving. Walking around…or running shall I say, and taking loads and loads of pictures.

I just realized that I am being very detailed about this rally and how it works. And there’s 26 of them left. Which means that by the time we get to San Antonio, you guys are going to know exactly how everything works, and it’s going to get very old with me giving every little detail about it. Well tough. I’m gonna do it anyways!

So Melanie and Buzz introduced and welcomed everyone to the rally and then I think Melanie spoke and then Buzz talked about his experience in the Clinton Administration and why the prospect of another one is so frightening.

I just remember one thing from Buzz’s interview with that extreme leftist who thinks he “is the military” Jon Soltz. They were discussing Hillary and Buzz recalled that one of the first things she tried to do in her husband’s administration was to ban military uniforms in the White House. What on earth was the point of that? I’ll never understand that woman.
Anyways when Buzz was finished, Melanie introduced Debbie Lee who gave her son’s story again. I can’t believe how dedicated that man was. He put himself in the line of fire three times in one day to defend his brothers in arms as well as the Iraqi civilians whom it was his mission to train and protect. He worked with and helped train the new Iraqi army which has burgeoned to great proportions since Debbie’s Son and dedicated Special Forces like him began their work in Iraq.

Today Iraq has more than 200,000 soldiers to defend itself with, and that number is growing every day. These men are receiving training from the finest, most elite, professional military organization in the history –to date. To me, that is nothing but reassuring that in the coming months or years – however long it takes, it is worth the investment – the Iraqi Army will be prepared to defend it’s city streets with less and less support from American forces.

After Debbie Lee talked about her son’s story and how he was KIA, Deborah Johns took the stage and told her son’s story, that he has served four tours in the military and volunteered for deployment in Iraq THREE TIMES. What bravery. What stalwart commitment to a cause which one believes in. This boy reminds me of what a young Winston Churchill must have been like. And Deborah has also served four tours of duty, as she has been on every MAF caravan. That’s four tours of duty educating people on the difference between the mass media and the defeatism of liberal legislators in stark contrast to the reality on the ground in Iraq. That reality being, that we are winning the war, stopping Al Queda, and spreading democracy and liberty to the hungry souls of Iraqis who have spent decades under oppression. Deborah’s speech was indeed very moving.

Duncan Hunter spoke next, and there were massive number of people there! Duncan was an amazing speaker. I have never personally seen him address a crowd before, nor had I met the gentleman before today, but I must say I was very, VERY impressed. The most touching thing about Congressman Hunter’s speech was a story he reiterated to us from the wisdom of one of history’s greatest leaders: President Ronald Reagan. According to Duncan, Reagan had once spoken of a soldier who was infantry in Vietnam and was KIA. When his buddies found his body they discovered something they did not know before; he had kept a diary. When reviewing the man’s last entry they were particularly moved by one short passage. I do not have a direct quotation, but it basically said that despite the horrors of that war, despite the mud, the setbacks, and the vicious cycle of advance, retreat, taking and giving ground nightly, despite the seemingly endless assault of nightly shelling and mortar fire, this soldier was still deeply committed to his cause. He wrote that I “must fight this war as though the future of the whole United States of America depended on me and me alone.” That was the nature of his resolve.

Hearing that from Congressman Hunter ALMOST made me tear up in the eyes. How could one man, knowing that his death could come at any time or any day, and that his commanders would likely only see him as another KIA on the daily list of KIAs. Knowing full well that the public at home would likely spit on him in thank for all his efforts and risks. And yet he was still so committed to his mission and he took it so seriously that we would defend it as if the fate of the nation relied on his performance alone. That is a lot of weight to put on your shoulders, and he was willing to die for it. And in the end he made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Would anyone doubt that he did it with nothing but love and compassion in his heart?

That is the nature of our soldiers today fighting in Iraq. The atrocities we see the media talking about are the exception to the rule and I think it’s totally unfair that our fine soldiers, young men and women cut from the same cloth as that magnificent soldier Congressman Hunter talked about, are being characterized the same way John Kerry characterized his fellow soldiers as brute thugs, rapists, and murderers.

Okay enough ranting from me. Congressman Hunter got an uproarious cheer and several locals noted to me that they were impressed with the numbers of people who showed up and their enthusiasm.

People were very, very enthusiastic in fact; they were giving donations, handing in notes, and taking CDs, bumper stickers, magnets, T-shirts, and dozens of Buzz’s books. I think we gave out almost two full boxes of Buzz’s books and he was autographing them left and right. Everyone was VERY, VERY generous. They were donating cash and writing checks left and right and often donated much more than the cost to produce all the books and t-shirts they were taking home. I also wanted to note that there was another group there Soldier’s Angels and there was a REALLY cute little girl in a green shirt walking around with her friend. Really nice people...if you’re reading this...call me!

Now we are on our way to Sacramento for another rally. It’s very exhilarating and even though we’re REALLY late (heavy traffic on the 80) we are excited to do it again.
I am reminded of why I wanted to get back into politics and talking with people about issues that matter to them. I don’t know how many people I talked to today that wished me luck, and ACTUALLY THANKED ME...YES ME for what I was doing. I felt compelled to thank THEM for coming out and supporting our troops. But these people were gracious enough and actually thankful that Move America Forward is here to spread the good word.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Day Zero - Sunday 03, 2007 - Sacramento to Carson City

Day Zero
I awoke this morning at around 7.
I think.
I could be wrong.
To tell you the truth it could have been yesterday, or the day before, or a week before that. When you are spending your whole life doing one thing it is easy to lose track of little annoyances such as time, day, sleep, food, water, and memory. It can make a week seem like a day. It can make a day seem like a week.

For about the last week and a half I, and this dude Ryan, have been helping out Move America Forward with the last planning stages of this Fight For Victory Tour.

This is the first time I've done such a thing. And now that I'm halfway through it, I find myself asking why I thought it was something one should do for the first time, or the second time, or ever!

Now don’t get me wrong, I like what we're doing here, it's totally worth it and it's absolutely rewarding. At least it will be by the conclusion of this tour when I meet all the people who come to our rallies. But also, let it be known, that they work us like dogs. DOGS.

So yes. We are used, abused, malnourished, overfed, overworked, under-slept (real word? eh, let's just say it is). But this is also some inspirational and powerful stuff we are working with. And I have just begun to understand that with our first day of actual TOURING.

So yeah. I get up at like 7 today. I'm not packed. I take a shower and try to relish it, because I know the rest of the week my showering will likely be rushed and under a deadline. Now I'm ready and start packing. Halfway through Ryan calls my cell, it’s about 7:30ish and he's downstairs in the lobby waiting.

Little punk is always on time.

By 7:45 I make it downstairs and we drive the Tahoe to the office. Ryan always drives. He's the kid so I let him drive. But he's a maniac. No offense Ryan but you know you are!

We get to the office and I set down to continue the relentless barrage of e-mail and phone call and facsimile that our responsibilities consist of. Ryan, additionally, is helping ready all the audio equipment and mobile networking for our mobile war room ( ie. the rented RV that has all the snacks in it ). So he goes to do that and I continue emailing and calling everyone I possibly can. But hey it's Sunday morning...of course...my efforts feel futile, but that’s the name of this game. For every action you take you get possibly a 1-5% return. So its a lot of effort. Not a lot of result. More and more action means you might get a little bit of result, and that’s all we're after.

Finally it's time to start moving boxes.

Cookies. Beef Jerky. Sudoku puzzles for the wounded vets to occupy time. Pins. Bumper Stickers. Little camouflage wrist bands. Bags full of fun size candy. T-shirts. T-shirts. Books..Melanie and Catherines, and Buzz's. More T-shirts.

It's crazy. Hectic. Everyone is trying to remember a million different things and we all know we're forgetting something. Finally we're ready to take off. The office looks like we abandoned it. Almost like a deep, dark, damp underground bunker filled with classified documents and the enemy is closing in. You burn everything. Nothing is left behind. That was what our office resembled.

Well...we left Comrade Stalin behind.

So we are finally on the road and only an hour behind schedule. I feel accomplished. Debbie Lee is with us. A Gold Star Mom. She knows the real meaning of sacrifice, as only very few could.

The caravan charges up the 80 towards Debra Johns. With us are 2 rental trucks, an RV and a Chevy Tahoe. But they have been outfitted with awesome looking MoveAmericaForward decals.

Debra's house is really nice. Gated community and such. She is a blue star mom. Her son did 3 tours in Iraq and he's now back stateside, still active but not deployed. She has two sons at home still, but I forget their names. I can only bet that the are very proud of their brother. I know I am.

Eventually we make it to Carson City. The drive over is absolutely gorgeous. Reminds me of Montana. I can't believe I only lived there a year and it still feels like I left part of 'home' there. In some ways I did.

We meet Buzz, Melanie and Catherine at this Mexican restaurant, but the kitchen is closing and we can't get food. Everyone is starving. We eat at a bar. The waitress is cute, and she’s really friendly. We get hot wings....my favorite. I eat too much. Had a few Mexican beers. Muy Bueno.

We're on TV! Channel 2 did an interview with Melanie, Buzz, Catherine and Don Alexander...a local of Reno I think, he's been helping us organize. I will meet him tomorrow and I look forward to it a lot. He's in a suit. Professional minded. I like that.

So we're watching the TV and we're excited about our prospects for tomorrow morning. This guy notices and come up. He's had a few to drink, but he engages us in a conversation. He's not for the war, and the conversation goes like most conversations on this topic. Whether it's on Cable News between two commentators or at this bar between us and this loud guy, or in the classroom where twelve people are trying to get their views across. In any case it always happens the same way. Everyone talks over everyone else. Everyone uses the same tired lines. The message gets lost.

I get the opportunity to try and get this gentleman to calm down and listen to me. We have an actual dialogue. It lasts only a few moments but It's well worth it. A temporary oasis of sanity in a sea of 'bumper sticker slogans'.

I ask if he would come to the rally and we can talk more. He might. If he does I think I can change his mind or at least make him see the merit in our point of view. This is what it's all about. Winning the hearts and minds. Our soldiers are so good at it. I wish we could say the same. Senator Harry Reid was wrong, but maybe he was on to something. The war is not lost, but if it is to be lost, it is lost by us back home. Not by the troops. The troops are winning. The military is winning. I know what the troops are fighting for. They know it too. That’s why they're winning the war.

But we are not committed. We are not focused on the right issues. I can say this is true of both sides, but I think the left is just lost completely and hopelessly lost. They have no idea what's at stake or what it is that we're fighting for. They say it's for Oil or for President Bush or to support some advanced conglomeration of corporate interests they refer to as the 'military industrial complex'. Rubbish.

When people know what we are fighting for, what is at stake and what the conflict in Iraq really MEANS for Americans and Iraqis. Then the answer becomes clear. But the real WAR for most Americans means trying to understand this simple fact. It is tough to grasp and hard to accept.

I feel like I am the one who is losing.

But that's what this is all about. That’s what we’re all here for. That’s what I am here for. That’s what the Fight For Victory Tour is all about. Hearts. Minds. Hope. Optimism. Determination.