On the Campaign Trail with the McCains

By David L. Brown

John and Cindy McCain came to Albuquerque today and I was there. I have been working with the west side McCain Campaign Office and provided them with information and photos about the vandalism to my house and McCain sign as reported here earlier. Thanks to the McCain folks I was able to get a press pass to the event this morning at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. This is a report on my experience.

First, as I left early to drive to Albuquerque, I was delighted to see this sight just a couple of blocks from my house.

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I stopped to take this picture, and as I turned to leave the owner of the house came out to see what was up. I pointed to my “McCain” cap and assured him “I’m on your side.” We chatted for a moment and I told him about the vandalism to my sign and house just up the street. He said he had started with five signs but one had been stolen. He is a serving member of the Army, presently back from a tour in Iraq.

I got to the rally about an hour before the McCains were due to arrive and as I wandered among the crowd one of the strongest impressions I took away was the sense of joy, enthusiasm, dignity and intelligence of the people in attendance. I thought I might witness some demonstrators trying to cause trouble, but did not. It was fun to meet and talk with people like this:

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This is a real-life “Joe the Plumber,” Bill Howland, President of Affordable Service Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the town where I live. Bill told me that he worked 25 years to build his business from one old truck to one of the largest firms of its kind in the Albuquerque area. His “Plumbers for McCain” movement had brought a number of other real-life “Joe’s” on hand to help cheer on their candidate.

Here’s another image of a happy McCain supporter, this one holding a sign with the message “Country First”. Besides her smile, we exchanged thumbs ups across the walkway where the McCains were due to arrive.

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The crowd was not particularly large, but they were all very upbeat. Here is a shot showing signs being held up and a large “Country First” banner that decorated one end of the area.

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The McCains were introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), followed by Cindy introducing John. This shot shows Cindy at the podium and Sen. Graham, center.

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Cindy was a great presenter, drawing rounds of applause as she spoke of their children, and particularly their two sons presently serving in the armed services. She pointed out that between the McCains and Palins they have three young men serving, one each in the Navy, Army and Marine Corps. That got a tremendous round of applause.

Then it was John’s turn at the podium, and though I have seen him speak on television and YouTube clips many times, in person he was even more impressive than I expected. He is obviously pumped as this campaign goes into its final days. He looks and acts energetic, enthusiastic, and feisty. He told the crowd that Obama should not count on winning, adding “We’ve got them exactly where we want them.” Here is a shot where he seems to be looking and pointing right at the camera, with a backdrop of supporters. This is my favorite shot from the shoot this morning.

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McCain emphasized his experience and pledged to keep America strong, protect social security and veterans, and cut waste in Washington. He pledged to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil, not only by offshore drilling (which set off a round of “Drill Baby, Drill”) and by every other means, including solar. He pointed out that New Mexico and neighboring Arizona are ideally positioned to reap the benefits of solar power. He also pointed out that he has a strong grasp of Southwestern issues such as water rights, immigration, and other issues, noting that his opponent “has never been south of the border.”

He drew strong applause as he made these points, and particularly when he emphasized that he would veto every pork barrel spending bill that comes to his desk “if, no, when I am President.” Here he is making a point with an index finger, in a shot made from inside the crowd immediately below the podium.

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He ended the stump speech with a wonderful rendition of the “Fight” theme he has been using since his acceptance speech in Minnesota, then he and Cindy worked the crowd as they headed out for an afternoon rally in the southern part of the state. Here they are pressing flesh:

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And another shot as they passed down the line, waving to the crowd. Note Cindy’s Navy and USMC pins, in recognition to their two serving sons.
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And so it came to a close. It was a very positive experience — but there is one final impression that I must share, and that was my unfortunate encounter with what turned out to be an Obama supporter as I walked back toward my car. There was a big tractor-trailer unit parked right behind the area where the event was held, and I made the mistake of assuming that because the driver was working the McCain event, he was a supporter. As my readers know, I am interested in changes taking place in transportation, so I wandered over hoping to have a friendly chat.

“Hi,” I said with a big smile, “you must be Joe the Trucker.” Wow, was he offended. “Do I look like a Joe!” he snarled. “I took all my Obama stickers off of my truck so I wouldn’t have to put up with you *******,” he responded. I tried to apologize, saying I just wanted to have a friendly talk. “No you didn’t, you came over here to insult me,” he said. “You are rude, and you should wash your ******* foot before you put it in your mouth.”

The contrast between this man’s swinish behavior and the entirely positive, civilized and upbeat crowd among which I had spent the last two and a half hours was absolutely stunning, the difference between black and white. I walked away shaking my head and wondering what is wrong with our country that it has engendered such foul, negative, hateful behavior. Alas, this is not the America I knew.

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