Showing posts with label jim clyburn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jim clyburn. Show all posts

6/02/2007

Fish Fry Photos!

Here are the photos I took at Congressman Jim Clyburn's Annual Fish Fry in Columbia the day after the first Democratic debate. (Copyright warning: If you like the photos, please feel free to link to them on this site and give me credit for them. Don't publish them elsewhere.) Unfortunately, some of these photos didn't turn out so well because everyone was moving around in such a small space and people were constantly moving their cameras.

Here's Hillary Clinton speaking at the fish fry. From left to right, the other people one the stage are Congressman Jim Clyburn, Governor Bill Richardson, former Senator John Edwards, and Senator Barack Obama. Like her or not, there's no denying that she is a veteran politician who doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Her presence is very professional. Every detail down to her hand gestures and her clothes has probably been thoroughly planned. Notice how she's wearing a bright yellow pantsuit, which contrasts tremendously with the darker colors everyone else was wearing. That differentiated her from everyone else on the stage and made her seem like the main attraction.

Here's a picture of Clinton and Obama laughing on stage. Notice how they are not looking at each other even though they are standing right next to each other. They barely spoke to each other the entire evening. Here's another photo of them ignoring each other.

I mentioned in my original post about the fish fry that Obama had received a letter that was passed to him by someone in the crowd. Here's a photo of Obama reading that letter. I don't know what that letter said, but whatever it was, Obama seemed quite troubled by it. Here's a photo of Obama after reading that letter. Notice how his arms are folded and he is not smiling even though Clyburn is speaking. And here's yet another photo of an obviously distracted or perturbed Obama. I wonder what that letter said?

Here's Obama speaking to the crowd. Whatever was bothering him about that letter earlier must have been shoved to the back of his mind because he gave a rousing speech that the crowd ate up. Perhaps he was playing through the pain, so to speak? Or did he get a fish bone stuck in his throat like my sister joked?

This is Chris Dodd speaking on stage. I kinda felt sorry for him because of the six candidates who came to the fish fry, Dodd seemed to be the least celebrated. But then again, he was competing for oxygen with Bill Clinton's wife, the hometown hero turned North Carolina senator, and the well-spoken guy whose dark skin makes him look just like "us." But the crowd gave him polite applause. I didn't get a chance to meet Dodd at the event, unfortunately. I heard that he worked the crowd, but I must have been on the other side of the parking garage.

This is Joe Biden getting ready to take the mic from Clyburn so he can address the crowd. He seemed to have more fans in the audience this time compared to the previous day's debate. I was able to talk with him while he worked the crowd after speaking on stage. He remembered me (and said he definitely remembered my wife) and posed for another picture with me. Biden is a funny guy. It seems like the off-camera Joe Biden is totally different from the Joe Biden we see on C-SPAN. If he can convey this off-camera persona to a bit more people, I think he may have a chance because the intellect and vision are definitely there.

One of the main stars of the night was John Edwards. Admittedly, I was in Edwards' camp before I switched to Richardson's because of his compelling argument about shared sacrifice. Rather than spouting off a list of things he wanted to accomplish, his message was one of our own responsibility for helping us achieve these goals. The crowd loved him and his speech, and even I was impressed. He seems to be the Mitt Romney of the Democratic field in that he is polished, some of his views have "evolved," he's relatively inexperienced, and he's got a lot of cash. A Romney vs. Edwards election would be quite intriguing in this regard.

Here we have John Edwards and Bill Richardson shaking hands. Richardson seemed to have more supporters in the audience at the fish fry than at the debate. (Notice how Hillary is standing politely on stage. Even her stance seems disciplined!) The two kids standing on the right are Congressman Clyburn's grandchildren. These are the two people he was referring to when he said "the most important people on this stage are..." as if he was going to make an endorsement.

And finally, here's a photo of Congressman Clyburn and I. Clyburn is going to be in Congress until he retires. People in Columbia love him. Even his Republican opponents from South Carolina have to concede that this fish fry was an awesome event that did wonders for his PR. When I met Clyburn, I thanked him for scoring the VIP tickets for the debate and told him about how one of my relatives was friends with his wife. It might not seem like much of a connection, but it was obviously enough.

What a great evening. I am definitely making a return visit next year.

4/28/2007

Clyburn's Fish Fry

I had the wonderful fortune of attending South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn's Annual Fish Fry in downtown Columbia last night. The fish fry took place on the lower deck of a parking garage downtown. Press releases and publicity materials said the fish fry would last from 8 to 11, but it looked like people started partying much earlier than that. My wife, my sister, and I got to 1411 Gervais Street at about 7:20 and saw a HUGE line snaking out of the garage. The smell of fried fish hit me a block away. I'm sure the police officers patrolling the intersections nearby loved that smell too.

The first thing I noticed was how many Obama volunteers were working the crowd. They were strategically placed near the event entrance, street corners near the parking garage, and at various points in the line of people waiting to get in. I am most definitely not an Obama supporter, but I didn't want to use today to start any debates or arguments with any of the other campaign workers and supporters. I just wanted some fish.

The Obama volunteers I met today were a lot more cordial than the ones I met at his campaign tent at the debate in Orangeburg on Thursday. They were persistent in trying to get me to sign up for their mailing list, but I didn't bite. I politely took a few Obama stickers and they left me alone after that. One of the volunteers looked vaguely familiar. It turned out that he worked at Best Buy and delivered my washing machine and dryer about two or three weeks ago. So I talked with him for a few minutes before he left to try and enlist new supporters.

While we were waiting in line, I ran into two German journalists that I had met at the debate. We joked a little as I told them about all the autographs I got. Then I started talking with a couple that came from North Carolina. They were Obama supporters, but they seemed soft. They asked me who I was rooting for and I told them I was in Richardson's camp. Then I explained what happened to me with Obama's supporters at the debate and how that left me with a sour impression of his campaign. They said I should tell Obama what happened directly because he would not approve of such behavior, but I told them Obama brushed me off too. They laughed and asked if I was wearing a Richardson campaign sticker when that happened. Touchee, but how could Obama win over any converts if he only interacts with people who already agree with him?

When we finally made it to the registration table, we had to fill out personal data sheets and take a Clyburn for Congress sticker. That's when I noticed all the Clyburn signs that had been plastered all over the parking garage. And that's when I noticed just how many people had already entered the garage. We saw two lines of people. A fairly short line of about 20 people was waiting to get some soft drinks and liquor. A muuuuuuuuuch longer line of people was waiting for what was in the back of the garage: the fish. The three of us then took our place in line and waited, and waited, and waited. It probably took 15 or 20 minutes before we actually made it to the food. There was bread, fish fillets, and various sauces. Nothing more, nothing less. And that was fine. They had another soft drink table nearby. We took one plate of fish each and then searched for a seat. We were able to find a table with three chairs in a nearby alley, so we sat there and tore into that fish.

Man, that was some good stuff. I have nothing more to say about that.

After finishing our food, we were still hungry. But we knew that if we left our table and seats, we'd lose them for good. So I volunteered to wait in line again while they guarded the table. When I went back out to the main area where the lines were, I saw that the line's length had doubled. Simply incredible.

There were so many people. All of Clyburn's volunteers were wearing blue "Clyburn for Congress" T-shirts. His actual aides were wearing black suits with some sort of lapel pin. A deejay was playing some old school funk and R&B.; I distinctly remember hearing Parliament and Prince.

While I was waiting in line, I ran into a guy whom I had met the night before. Two nights ago, this guy approached me and shook my hand after I took the microphone and successfully recited the names, states, and titles of the eight Democratic presidential candidates. When I ran into this guy again today, I told him I remember him from the day before but didn't know who he was because he didn't introduce himself. He smiled at me and gave me his business card. He told me he was one of Congressman Clyburn's aides at his district office in Columbia and said "I had good knowledge" and "I did good last night." Needless to say, I quickly pulled out one of my own business cards and handed it to him.

I surveyed the crowd again while I was standing in line. It looked like about 85% of the people there were Obama fans, based on the stickers they were wearing. A few people had Edwards and Clinton stickers, but they were clearly in the minority. I only saw maybe five or six other people in the entire garage that had Richardson stickers, about four or five people with Dodd T-shirts, and the same number of Biden supporters. I saw nobody sporting any Kucinich or Gravel campaign gear. I also happened to see who I guess is the Richardson campaign's South Carolina campaign chairwoman. She remembered me from yesterday and asked if I needed any stickers. I told her I wanted one so I could show Richardson a little love in a sea of Obama fans.

When I got close to the food table, I called my sister on her cell phone and told her to send my wife out so we could get enough fish for the three of us. It was about 8:45 now. None of the politicians had arrived yet because they were attending the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at the convention center (about 7 blocks away) until 9. So we still had time to laugh and chat while enjoying the warm evening breeze.

At about 9:15 we decided to relinquish our seats and head back to the main area of the parking garage where the candidates would speak. A stage had been set up in the center of the garage, where I noticed a few Secret Service agents had conspicuously planted themselves. People had already begun to congregate near the stage and stake out their positions there. Because of the shape of the garage, if you were not near this stage, it would be impossible for you take a good picture of the candidates, much less be able to meet them.

By 9:30, the crowd had become a bit restless. I'm not sure how many of them knew that the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was responsible for their delay, but nobody was budging from their vantage points. I noticed that the number of Hillary supporters had increased considerably as well.

Then I heard everybody cheering.

Bill Richardson had entered the garage and was working the crowd near the entrance. Needless to say, I was pumped up. However, I was standing too far away from him and didn't have a chance to shake his hand. Then I heard the crowd erupt into a deafening roar.

The 'Bama had arrived.

Obama was wearing his trademark sports coat with a white dress shirt, top button open. This laid back image was a direct contrast to Richardson, who was wearing a full executive suit. Contrary to my experience with him on Thursday, Obama shook as many hands as he could, including my sister's. ("Oh my gosh, I can't believe I actually shook Obama's hand!") Perhaps the more laid back environment was a better fit for him?

He then made a strategic retreat to the fish table. Obviously, he did not have to wait in line. When he returned to the stage, he had a plate of fish sans drink. Congressman Clyburn had already taken the microphone and I noticed that Obama took a strategically timed bite of that fish when Clyburn began to speak. Even my wife, whose knowledge of politics is minimal at best, could tell that this was staged. My thinking is that Obama knew that as soon as Clyburn, the single most powerful politician in South Carolina, began to speak, everybody's attention would be directed to the stage, where they could see Obama conveniently proving his Black credentials by getting his grub on as he takes an oversized bite of some fried fish. (We knew this fish had a few bones in it, so my sister joked that Obama would be in big trouble if that oversized bite of fish Obama took wasn't all meat.)

The crowd began to cheer again as Joe Biden entered the garage and walked onto the stage. He and Richardson exchanged hugs and handshakes. Chris Dodd, who was next, received a similar reception.

The next thing I heard was the sound of drums. That's when I saw a gang of supporters holding "Clinton Country" campaign signs file into the garage to the beats of a drum squad. Incredible. Suddenly I felt like I was at a college football game's halftime show when the schools' marching bands competed against each other. It was as if Obama and Clinton were trying to outdo each other with flair and bombast. But the crowd was eating it up.

And there she was. Hillary appeared out of nowhere and had her trademark wide-eyed smile. I could not tell if this smile was sincere or not, but her approach to the crowd was obviously different from Obama's. She looked like a seasoned politician and knew how to work the crowd. (In contrast, Obama was presenting himself more as a local homeboy.) Anyway, everybody, including myself, stuck out their hands so they could greet Hillary. Hillary actually made eye contact with me and shook my hand!

She then took her place on stage right next to Obama. Obama was standing on the far right side of the stage. Biden, Richardson, and Dodd were standing on the left, in that order.

Then I heard more drums, and that's when I saw the Edwards supporters make their presence known. A river of white Edwards campaign signs flowed into the garage and the crowd squealed with glee. That's when John Edwards took the stage. He was wearing blue jeans, a white dress shirt, and a sports coat. He stood between Dodd and Clinton. Edwards and Clinton shared a brief embrace while the other candidates received handshakes.

Noticeably absent to me (through probably not to the rest of the crowd) were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. I thought every candidate would come and speak at the fish fry, but I wasn't surprised that these two candidates did not attend. I think they'd receive polite applause, but I can't help but wonder if their presence would be a distraction since they are such longshots, especially in South Carolina. People still don't know who Gravel is and Kucinich's liberal views might be a tough sell in South Carolina, even among Democrats, which is unfortunate.

Anyway, after all six candidates took the stage, Clyburn took the microphone again and thanked everyone for coming out to support the fish fry. He then teased the crowd by saying "there are many wonderful people on the stage with me, but the most important of all of them are..."

Was he going to make an endorsement? Did he have a sentimental favorite?

"...my two grandchildren!"

D-OH!!!

Of course, the crowd ate it up and cheered wildly as two children who were no older than 9 or 10 years old smiled on stage. Obama, Edwards, and Clinton clapped politely and smiled. I know everybody on that stage wants Clyburn's endorsement. But the fact of the matter is, they need Clyburn a lot more than Clyburn needs them. Clyburn is much more powerful and much more popular than Governor Mark Sanford, Senator Lindsay Graham, and veteran congressman John Spratt.

Then Clyburn said he wanted to introduce all the candidates from left to right. Again, this was probably planned because the order of the candidates was Biden, Richardson, Dodd, Edwards, Clinton, and finally Obama. (It would be rather anticlimactic if Chris Dodd was the last person to speak, right?)

Biden was first. He gave a brief speech and basically said "he might be down, but he's gonna keep on running" or something to that effect. He obviously knows he's trailing in the polls, but he has nothing to lose. He displayed a playful attitude and clearly conveyed that he'll be in it until the very end.

Next up was Richardson. He also gave a brief speech in which he talked about the debate the previous night. He said he wanted to say so much more than the debate format allowed, and talked a little bit about education (I think).

Dodd was next. His speech was even briefer, but he managed to give a shoutout to South Carolina State University (the debate site on Thursday), which Biden and Richardson did not do. Maybe that won him a few brownie points. Too bad he had lost his voice, as it was quite raspy.

(Here's an interesting aside. While the earlier candidates were speaking, someone behind me gave me a slip of paper and told me to pass it over to Obama. So I told the woman in front of me to pass it on. And she did. Eventually the letter found its way to Obama, and he took it! I was quite surprised. The letter looked like it was one and a half pages long with fairly large font. It was not handwritten, but rather printed from a computer. To my surprise, Obama started reading it. But about five seconds into reading the letter, his facial expression changed. I could not tell if the letter was about a serious subject or if it contained something negative about him or his campaign. But whatever it was, Obama did not look too happy after reading it. He then put the letter back in his pocket and tried to force an enthusiastic smile for the rest of the rally. I guess Obama was put into a really tough position here because if he refused the letter, that would make him appear inaccessible to "his peeps." But because he's still a largely inexperienced politician, he should get used to dealing with bad news. Perhaps he needs a thicker skin?)

Anyway, Edwards was the first of the heavyweights to speak. I could see that Biden, Dodd, and Richardson were visibly annoyed by Edwards' speech because he treated his "introduction" as an opportunity to give a campaign speech. In other words, it took him awhile to finish up. He was able to one-up Dodd by talking about the civil rights movement "in the sixties" and how three Black students from SC State were murdered. He used their sacrifices to talk about the struggle for equality that he's fighting for and how he wants to give a voice to the people who don't have one (i.e., the poor and the disenfranchised). The crowd ate it up.

Clinton took the mike next. She talked about the importance of electing a Democratic president and said that "with our help, we could bring America back to prominence and make the White House the people's house." Those are not her exact words, but I do remember the gist of what she was saying. In other words, she tried to keep the focus on the final goal of kicking the Republicans out of the White House and putting a Democrat (her) in it. Like Dodd, she was losing her voice as well.

Fittingly, the final speaker was Obama. The crowd could not stop hollering before erupting into sustained chants of "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" The Messiah then took the mike and gave what I guess is his standard speech including the line "I have become a vehicle for your hopes and dreams." One thing (I THINK) he did that the other candidates didn't do was give a shoutout to Congressman Clyburn. It appears that Obama is working hard for that coveted endorsement.

After Obama's speech, all the fans would have a chance to meet with the candidates as they worked the crowd. Or so I thought. The only candidate I could see was Biden. Biden was surrounded by cameras as he left the stage and mingled with the crowd. Curiously, Clinton, Richardson, and Dodd were nowhere to be found. Edwards was also missing, which was shocking because he didn't come to the post-debate party the day before either. I think Dodd's absence at the end of the fish fry was a huge mistake because it would have been a good opportunity for him to introduce himself to a lot of eager potential supporters. Biden appeared to be the only candidate who was working for votes.

I was able to make my way to Biden and shake his hand. I asked if he remembered me from the debate earlier and he said he did and also noticed that I wasn't wearing a suit this time. (So he was sincere.) Then he looked at my wife and said, "Oh, and I definitely remember her!" and flashed a cheesy smile. It was too funny. My wife, my sister, Biden, and I all laughed after that. I told Biden than I really had a lot of respect for him and was hoping he could break out. I gave him my business card and told him to please contact me if he needed any help from a journalistic or public relations standpoint. He took my business card, smiled, said he'd contact me, and then posed for a picture with me. Awesome.

(By the way, another person I was particularly impressed with was Dennis Kucinich, even though he was not at the fish fry. After the debate the day before, Kucinich came down to address the dwindling crowd. I was able to get an autograph from him and he and his wife talked with me for about five minutes. I could not believe how much Kucinich was actually interested in me as a person. He asked me questions about which languages I could speak when I told him I was a linguistics student, he demonstrated some of his own foreign language knowledge, he asked me about my travels, and he expressed his appreciation when I complimented him for his courage to say what everyone wants to say but is too afraid of because of the inevitable political recriminations. I know Kucinich is often lampooned by other pundits and talking heads, but I have great respect for him as a person after the wonderful impression he made on me. The extent to which he interacted with me as a person, rather than as a voter, truly impressed me.)

After we left Biden, we searched for any other candidate we could find. I thought Richardson was still floating around, but I couldn't find him. Maybe he had left. Too bad because I'm sure he would have remembered me.

I have to say, I am really impressed with Biden. He's a likable guy after all. It's a shame that the media seem to be giving him a raw deal. I'm still in Richardson's camp because I think he's the GOP's worst nightmare, but I'd be perfectly happy with Biden as the nominee because his intellect would allow him to demolish his Republican opponent in the debates.

Anyway, the last thing I did was try to meet Congressman Clyburn. I wanted to thank him for giving us the VIP tickets to the debate viewing hall. I also wanted to tell him that I was related to one of the close friends of his wife. When I was finally able to work my way over to the stage where he was taking pictures, I thanked him for the tickets and for putting together this awesome party. He smiled, let us take a picture with him and said thank you, although it was clear he was very busy and probably couldn't process what we were trying to say. That's fine.

What an amazing night. We ended up leaving the fish fry at about 10:30, but the crowd was still rocking when we left. I watched some of the news coverage on the local 11:00 news after I got home and people were still partying at the garage. They said about 1600 people showed up, although I have yet to hear any official attendance counts.

Anyway, they might as well change the name of the Sixth Congressional District of South Carolina to Jim Clyburn's Personal Playground. This guy has a stranglehold on this seat for as long as he wants it. What a great party and what a great way to connect with the voters in your district.

Simply awesome.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.