Friday, April 6, 2007

Maybe All Politics Ain't Local

Spent half of last week in Washington, DC, doing that union-political two-step thang, at a yearly shindig called the Building & Construction Trades Legislative Conference, an AFL-CIO sponsored forum that puts delegates from the various unionized building trades across country in the huge ballroom of the Washington Hilton and Towers, i.e., the place where Reagan got his bell rung. The highlight this year was the so-called Presidential Candidate Forum, wherein 7 of the Dem wannabe’s assembled before the huge ballroom full of hardcore hardhats, desperate unionists, and cynical optimists. A quick scorecard, in order of their appearance:

Former Senator John Edwards (D-SC)—Southern-fried mini-JFK type, handsome, smooth and assured, began with the Elizabeth Big C coattail stuff (a surefire crowd pleaser), pulled out his “two America’s” spiel, tossed in a dollop of picaresque anecdotes, adept at labor speak, for the Employee Free Choice Act, claims to be the only one with a defined Universal Health Plan, gotta get outta Iraq, garnered the second best applause of the morning.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)—New-fangled politico with old school connections, populist precinct-Boss type, spoke of an America where “too few prosper, too many sacrifice”, claims to be the only candidate with actual foreign policy experience, described his New Mexico as a unionized labor paradise, invoked Walter Reed, for the Employee Free Choice Act, his Labor Secretary would actually come from organized labor, “You’ll hear a lot today from some great and creditable Democratic candidates, and all of them can serve effectively in the White House, …as my Vice-president.”

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)—Poised, well-coiffed, confidant, eyes twinkling with the awareness that she is indeed among friends when it comes to big labor, name-checked Walter Reed, stated unequivocally that the Employee Free Choice Act will be passed, tossed out nearly every labor byword (Davis-Bacon, Project Labor Agreements, Universal Health Care, the right to organize, etc.), “One of the keys to our sense of democracy is the state of unions, we will gain back our strength when we remember the very promise of America”, predictably the best received speaker of the day.

Rep. Dennis Kunich(D-OH)—Loose-limbed, on-the-edge, spider monkey, immediately invoked FDR, tore into Universal Health Care, not-for-profit Health Care, “I don’t want to be Chairman of the Insurance industry”, his street sense told him right from the beginning that this was a call to war built on lies, he would repeal the Patriot act immediately, his grand finale was a combo of whirlwind arms, spastic jump steps, spittle flying and a croaked cry of “Solidarity Forever!”

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT)— Liberal, glib and tuff, a Tip O’Neill-meets-Newt Gingrich look-alike, began with a Willam Howard Taft joke, for the Employee Free Choice Act, tsk-tsk Walter Reed, his admistration will bring about Universal Health Care, he‘s the guy behind Family Medical Leave, “America’s comeback has to start with a rebirth of organized labor”, “I’ll say it again, I’m a union guy, I’m a union Senator, and I stand right alongside union members”.

Senator Joe Biden (D-MD)---Caustic, fiery, teeth-clenching, “No Malarkey” Joe, licking his chops in anticipation and bristling with know-it-all energy, “My name is Joe Biden and I am the best friend you have ever had, and I have 34 years to prove it. Here I am, and you have no one to blame but yourself—because labor got me elected, labor kept me elected, and when I’m President of the United States I’ll still be the best friend labor ever had!”, the current Prez is waging a war on labor and a war on the middle-class, the war in Iraq must end and it must end now, the Employee Free Choice Act has to pass, Joe’s finale brought it down to whisper with a tale of his daddy not having the dough to send him to college, then a JFK reference, then a booming “It’s time we ask this current administration-What in the hell are we doing?”

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)—The Sugar Ray Robinson of candidates, light on his feet, quick with his hands, deceptively strong and obviously razor sharp, drops an Abe Lincoln reference in straight off, joked about being last and everything needing to be said was already said just not be him, by the end of his Presidency we will indeed have Universal Health Care, stood up against this war way, way back in 2002, high-toned the assembled with a clarion call “We are all here today because our country calls us!”, dug into the Bush administration’s “politics of isolation”, layed out a coupla history lessons starring ordinary peeps, all-in-all more of a cool breeze performance than his usual preacher-like speechifying

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