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Campaign Notes: Chapter One
Not surprisingly, the press was neither invited, nor permitted, to ask a question of Paul Ryan.

 

 Attending and Surviving a Paul Ryan Victory Rally

in De Pere   Ashwaubenon Wisconsin


(Green Bay, WI, Sept. 13, 2012) - Last Saturday, a political robocall left a message on my answering machine: “Paul Ryan Victory Rally in De Pere on Wednesday, September 12,” it said.    Normally, I would have erased it without a another thought, as I do all political robocalls, but I was intrigued.
 
As an itinerant crackpot reporter for the West Kentucky Journal, presently residing in Green Bay,  I had an idea.  Why not go?  Take it all in and report back to my editor (and law school classmate) Mary Potter.  So I sent Mary an email to see if she might be interested, and her immediate answer was, “yes! Yes! YES!”

So here is the story of this Democrat’s somewhat frightening, somewhat amusing journey through the bowels of Teapublican Hell, officially named the “Victory Rally Town Hall with Paul Ryan and the GOP Team, Wisconsin.”  Or something like that. 

 I could not brave the event alone.  We all have our limits.  So I enlisted the help of my partner, Janice, who courageously braced her tender Democrat’s rational ears for the inevitable onslaught of lies, half truths, exaggerations and prevarications that were certain to come blaring out of the public address system at any moment.

 For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of northeast Wisconsin, the City of  De Pere is four miles south of Green Bay.  The Village of Ashwaubenon, the actual home of the Green Bay Packers, is to the immediate west of Green Bay.  So the Paul Ryan event, advertised variously as being in De Pere and Green Bay was actually held in Ashwaubenon.  It doesn’t really matter; who cares about those pesky fact checkers anyway?

 When we arrived, we were greeted by a massive police presence outside and inside  the Cornerstone Community Ice Center, where the 10:30 a.m. event was held.   Law enforcement consisted of a rather eclectic mix of Ashwaubenon Police, Brown County Sheriffs and their K-9 Officers, a.k.a., “dogs,” Secret Service, some in uniform, others in plain clothes.    All of them looked willing to eat you alive if you said, “Boo!”  Or “Democrat!” 

The first person to present himself to us who wasn’t a cop was a protester, “Fightin’ Bob from Oshkosh,” in full Obama regalia, carrying a black skull and cross bones, representing  the obvious results of Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan.  Although Republicans are apparently terribly fearful of “death panels,” they seem to have no such trepidation about trading their grandma’s Medicare for a book of insurance coupons.   (Maybe something like “50 cents off angioplasty of left anterior descending artery.  Hurry!  Sale ends soon!”  Or “half-price hemorrhoid-ectomy, now through November 6.” Or “free colonoscopy when you have two or more gall stones removed.”  I could go on, bFightin' Bob from Oshkoshut so can you.)

Once we reached the steps of the building, we were handed blaze orange paper fans with wooden handles, just like the ones they used to have in church or at funeral homes before the days of air-conditioning.  Only these did not have pictures of Jesus holding a lamb or a bucolic fall landscape.  Instead, emblazoned on both sides were the words “Defend Freedom.  Defeat Obama.”  I was actually glad to get one because it enabled me to find out who was paying for them.  In the fine print, there it was: “National Rifle Association.”   So here I held this peculiar artifact that gave off an aura resembling a mix of right wing politics and tent revival.  “It is going to be an interesting day,” I told myself.  And it was.

 I had seen a few “Defeat Obama” yard signs around Green Bay.  It is the first time in my life that I have seen a political sign vowing to defeat a politician.  Usually they are more positive.  As in “Vote for. . .”   But in this election cycle, it seems to be less about voting for Romney than it is about voting against Obama.  To me, the “Defeat Obama” sentiment is a glaring symbol of just how divisive politics have become in this new millennium.    It is also a symbol of a barely concealed underlying racism.  What the sign really means is,  “Whatever you do, don’t vote for the Black Guy.”

When we finally found the Press check-in, we were quickly and easily issued big honkin’ press passes on nifty black lanyards.  When you are a candidate for high office, the last thing you want to do is piss off the Press.  After all, the rag-tag group of writers and photojournalists might say something uncomplimentary about their golden boy and then everyone who was paying attention would know.

As the Teapublican crowd filtered in the hall, their racial composite was glaring.  There was not a single black or brown face in the crowd.  This group was so white, the only thing missing was the pointy hats.   Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I could hear faintly hear Ralph Stanley singing “O Death” before a ring of Klansmen and burning crosses,  just as he had in the Coen brothers classic,  O Brother Where Art Thou?

Eventually we noted the presence of one young woman carrying a St. Norbert College pendant, who was arguably brown, either of American Indian or Oriental descent.  She had been strategically seated immediately behind the speakers’ platform so the cameras could not miss her.  Shortly before the speakers arrived, two large muscular black men walked in.  At first, I thought they would join Miss St. Norbert College in the “photo op seats” as tokens.  Instead they positioned themselves on either side of the crowd and turned their backs to the stage.  They were Secret Service, paid to be there to ensure that none of us ran amok and embarrassed the Candidate. Or worse.

In a town where at least 23 different languages are spoken in its public school system, this Caucasian crowd was a complete anomaly.  It was obvious that Wisconsin English was their first language.  Comprehende vous?

The crowd was a predominately elderly.  Men outnumbered women.  A noticeable male minority sported pins and ribbons and other military regalia on their hats and jackets.  There were quite a few young white men, fewer young white women.  The latter group was confined almost entirely to Romney/Ryan staffers in tight red miniskirts and black jackets, who ran around in high heeled ankle breakers, talking on their “pods.”   They resembled Stepford Wives.

The “Defeat Obama” negativity theme was repeated inside the hall as well as out.  This time the theme was reflected in the web address emblazoned on the huge Romney/Ryan “Are you better off?” banner over the stage: www.obamaisntworking.com.

 Sprinkled among the crowd were glaring religious symbols, mainly large crosses on necklaces.  One old guy had a complete scene of the Crucifixion, spray-painted on the back of his tee shirt.  Fortunately, I didn’t see anyone wearing dead fetus shirts but I would not have been surprised.

Outside, the protesters were growing in number, segregated behind yellow police tape.  When I briefly left the hall to photograph them, I was physically shoved by a short, plump red haired guy in a green jacket, for having the audacity to walk on the pavement in what I later learned was a “safe zone.”  After I told him not to touch me, I asked him who the hell he was.  “Secret Service” was the reply.  Your tax dollars at work.

 It was worth it, however, to hear the Democratic contingent chant:

 “Romney/Ryan; they’re the worst.
              They put corporations first.”
 
When I returned from the protests, Janice told me she had overheard some Young Republican guy saying that Scott Walker and Tommy Thompson were planning to attend as “surprise speakers.”  Walker made it but the 71 year old Tommy was a no-show.  You don’t see much of Tommy these days.  You don’t see his tax returns either.

Two Romney “We Love America More than They Do” video fluff pieces were played on two large screens on either side of the room as we awaited the candidates. “Born Free” followed.  I don’t know whose recording it was, but it sounded like Bruce Springstein to me.

Then the blaring rock music went silent and there appeared. . . .{drum roll}. . .Michael W. Aubinger, President of the Village of Ashwaubenon.  He was followed by Brad Courtney, Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, who erroneously referred to the Governor of Wisconsin as Mitt Romney.    CourThe Ryan victory rally crowdtney solicited volunteers for the Republican ticket, to enable the party to “turn Wisconsin red for the first time since 1984.”

When Scott Walker took the stage, the crowd erupted.  He began his remarks by telling us  how much he loves firemen, policemen and the military, because they “keep us safe.”  Where had I heard that before?  Oh yeah, first grade, right up there with “The Principal is your pal.”

 After soliciting volunteers again for the Republican ground game (they must be running really low on them) Walker, the recalled-but-not- removed current Governor of Wisconsin and friend of fellow political prevaricator Paul Ryan, proceeded to spout the biggest lie of the day.  He said, “Truth is on our side.” 

Fortunately, for me and those seated immediately in front of me, I had not eaten breakfast before attending the rally and had nothing in my stomach to reverse and spew.   The man who was elected on a “jobs” platform, the man who, during his campaign never once mentioned that his primary goal was to dismantle public employee unions, which he proceeded to do on the thinnest of partisan majorities,  dared to tell anyone about truth!!

 Didn’t Marquette University drop out Walker ever read Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn?

 “Truth is beauty and beauty truth.
 That is all ye know on Earth and all you need to know.”
 
 O the blasphemy!  
  
Paul Ryan arrived at 11:14 a.m., dressed in a Green Bay Packers polo shirt and chanting “Go Packers.”  To me, this comment was horribly misplaced.  The Green Bay Packers are union members which mean that they are most likely Democrats.  And the Packers don’t fit the Teapublican demographic at all. Ryan’s remarks were typical stump speech rhetoric condensed into one or two words: jobs, prosperity, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, charity, faith, accomplishment, freedom, liberty. At one point, he referred to the top of the ticket as “Ritt Momney.” And he told the crowd that he wants to “keep promises made to the people on Social Security and Medicare.”  This from the guy who supported Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into “coupons.”

He railed against the number of people in the country who receive Food Stamps, keeping alive the racially-tinged Teapublican lie that casts Obama as “the Food Stamp President.”  He must have forgotten that the Food Stamp Program is first and foremost a farm subsidy program that benefits Wisconsin’s farmers. 
   
And Ryan called for transparency in government, so that the people can “see the books.”  That’s a real hoot.   Bush the Younger was the fellow who took the Iraq War off the books.  The deficit ballooned after Obama took office, not because he spent lavishly, but because he put the cost of the Iraq War on the books.

While calling for a balanced budget, Ryan railed against what he termed a “huge tax increase” due to take place in January 2013.  This was in apparent reference to Congress’ failure to extend the so called Bush tax cuts, because the Republicans could not bear to tax the filthy rich another cent.   It is a mathematical truth that tax cuts and balanced budgets are always at cross purposes.

Billed as a “Town Hall” meeting, four members of the audience were permitted to ask a question.  Three of the four questioners failed to ask questions, however.  All they could do was regurgitate wild-eyed fanatical praise for the candidate that sounded suspiciously as if it were gleaned from FOX “News.”  The actual question, posed about the stability of the Federal Reserve was answered by Ryan in three words.   “Pass a budget!” he bellowed.

 I guess Ryan must have forgotten to mention that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives simply abandoned Washington in August without passing a budget.  If he’s upset about the lack of a budget, he needs to talk to John Boehner.

 Not surprisingly, the press was neither invited, nor permitted, to ask a question of Paul Ryan.

We stand for “freedom, individual rights and women’s rights,” said he. 

I still can’t figure out which rights he was referring to.  It’s unlikely he meant gay marriage, contraception or legal abortion under Roe v. Wade.  Maybe he really meant the right to reside forever in the closet, become pregnant by a rapist and bear the child of a sexual assault.

The whipped cream and cherry on top comment came at the end of his remarks when he began attacking Obama because of the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Egypt and Libya that had occurred just the night before.  Ryan said that the attacks on the U.S. Embassies were the result of intelligence leaks in the Obama administration.

"These leaks on national security by the Obama Administration undermine the safety of our people overseas."   

 “Peace through strength” Pinocchio said, and left the stage.


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