Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politics Is My Hollywood

I must have some unbelievable karma this year, because my most recent stroke of good luck was being offered a ticket to the Democratic debate.

Anyone who knows me well would understand that this is the equivalent of a six-year-old girl being invited to see Hannah Montana. And being brought backstage to hang out with her. And then being given a pony. I was pretty much beside myself with excitement.

I checked in with the CNN staff at the Roosevelt Hotel around 2:30 and was escorted over to the Kodak Theater, where throngs of people were cheering for Obama, holding really awesome two- and three-tone headshot posters. There were plenty of Hillary supporters as well, but the Obama folks had a fairly clear numerical advantage when I arrived and were chanting his name loudly and happily.

Now, I have to mention that security was supposed to be pretty tight – we had to submit names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers for those of us attending a week ago. But when we arrived at the Roosevelt, after providing an ID and getting our wristbands, it would have been incredibly easy to swap them out to anyone else before heading over to the Kodak Theater. Anyhow, I just found that sort of surprising.

We did have to go through a security checkpoint and metal detector at the theater, as well as having our bags checked. It only took a minute and then we were inside heading to our seats. We were in the parterre section, I believe, and we sat about halfway back in the dead center with a perfect view of where the candidates would be sitting.

After about 20 minutes or so, I got up to use the facilities (because the more I thought about it, the more certain I became I’d never be able to hold it until 7pm). When I came back, the lovely and talented Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice fame was one seat away from me on the opposite side of my accompanying colleague. To my great joy, it happens that she is an Obama supporter as well. She told us she had been out to Nevada for the caucuses, as well as Arizona to campaign on his behalf.

While my colleague isn’t as much of a political junkie as me, I still took the time to point out every single politico I saw: LA County Supes Gloria Molina, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, and Zev Yaroslavsky (who was somehow left off the list when state party chair Art Torres introduced the legislators in attendance, btw); state electeds Fabian Nunez, John Garamendi, John Chiang, Debra Bowen, and Bill Lockyer; SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and LA Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Janice Hahn, Bill Rosendahl, and Tom LaBonge. (LaBonge, in his typical and inimitable fashion, asked Wolf Blitzer what his favorite movie was when the anchor teasingly elicited questions from the crowd before the debate. Oh, Tom.) I didn’t see former Gov. Gray Davis, but he was introduced and received a standing ovation from the electeds down in the orchestra, several of whom tried to wave him down into their section.

Of course, I also spotted a few non-elected power players, including LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, Antonia Hernandez of the California Community Foundation, and Carol Schatz of the Central City Association. And no night in Hollywood would be complete without a few celebrity sightings – Ed Helms, Jean Smart, Stevie Wonder, Diane Keaton, and BEST OF ALL, Jimmy Jean-Louis, better known as the Haitian on Heroes. (I can die happy now.) All this before the debate even started! I was dizzily overwhelmed.

The debate finally started and the whole crowd stood up to cheer for Obama and Hillary when they walked in. I thought Obama was very statesmanlike in acknowledging John Edwards immediately and talking about his friendship with Hillary. I personally thought Hillary could have been more cordial in her opening remarks, since she made a not-so-veiled reference to Obama’s supposed lack of experience when she mentioned that whoever becomes President would need to be ready on “Day One”. Man, am I tired of that phrase already.

The first topic covered was health care, which thrilled me, since it’s been such a huge part of my work over the past year. While there are obvious differences between the proposals from the two candidates, truthfully, it would be exciting just to have the opportunity for either one of them to put forth their ideas and create some meaningful change to the currently broken system.

Probably the most contentious issue that was discussed was the war in Iraq. Their differing views of what sort of timeframe, if any, should be set for troop withdrawals was but one point of discussion. Obama wants all the troops out within 16 months of taking office, while Hillary won’t commit to any particular timeframe. However, she did say she would hope to have most troops out within 12 months of taking office. The point Obama kept coming back to was that he opposed the war from the start, while Hillary did not. (Wolf Blitzer gave her yet another chance to admit the vote to authorize the war was a mistake, but she wasn’t having it.) Obama later said, “The reason that this [issue of ending the war] is important, again, is that Senator Clinton, I think, fairly, has claimed that she's got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one.” I personally couldn’t agree with him more on this particular topic.

Overall, the debate itself was pretty civil, a welcome change for most Democrats, I think. I admired the way both candidates interacted with each other, and I noted that Obama, ever the gentleman, helped Hillary into her seat before he took his own at the beginning of the debate and during each subsequent break. A brilliant, eloquent, patriotic, chivalrous leader? He’s got my vote.

P.S. As I was leaving the after-party, Jimmy Jean-Louis was headed out as well. I almost choked on my mini-slider in excitement and he took the time to stop and say hello, despite my obvious insanity. I told him how much I adore his work and how thrilled I was to learn he’s a Democrat. He wouldn’t reveal to me which candidate he prefers, though!


frank said...

My reason for voting Obama is that I noticed him drinking out of a bigger water glass than Clinton.

And who knew the Haitian had such an awesome real-life name! It's even better if you pronounce his whole name French.

Also, while your night was very exciting and enviable, I think you'll find my post-debate night to be even more exciting and almost marginally more enviable. check the blog.

anny said...

Thank you for sharing your experience! I'm italian and I hope Obama will win. I read his program, I listen to his speeches and I was!
And I'm a little envious because you got to met Kate Walsh and you speak to her... I adore her, I think she's amazing!

Anonymous said...

Go Obama!

OMG tu got to meet KATE WALSH!!!!
You are so lucky, she is great and so pretty!

Michael S. said...

Underneath it all, you're still star struck...I knew it!!!