|Rather than go through the play-by-play of both speeches, which you can read in the Missoulian, I thought I'd share my general impressions of the candidates, their rhetoric, and the attendees of both events.
In line for Obama, I alienated myself from my line mates. All they did was complain about Hillary Clinton, and in a really stupid way. "She's a bitch." "She has such a sense of entitlement." "She's bitter." "She's lost her femininity." At the final comment, I rolled my eyes very obviously, shook my head, and turned away from them. I find it ironic that these very same people certainly lept to their feet when Obama promised that he would provide something to support, rather that something to be against - the people I talked to seemed to be anti-Clinton more than pro-Obama.
As my friends and I settled into our seats (by the way, the seating scheme was total bunk and I was really annoyed about being told that I had to sit in some particular section) I mentioned to an acquaintance that I supported Clinton over Obama. Someone I've never met before jumped on me: "Do you know what she has done with trade in South America?" I said "yes, do you know about the trade agreement with Peru that Obama supported?" She admitted that she didn't. Nearly every Obama supporter I've met is remarkably good at criticizing the splinter in Clinton's eye while ignoring the plank in Obama's.
When considering Obama's campaign rhetoric, I mostly wonder what will happen when he lets his supporters down when he's president - which will undoubtedly happen, because a number of his supporters literally see him as some kind of extra-human force in politics (a woman sitting next to me said "This is just like hearing Martin Luther King, Jr speak!" Uhh, no). It seems like people will either become angry and disillusioned (historians suggest this occurred in the 60s as a result of JFK and LBJ's failed policies) or they'll find some excuse for every misstep he makes. I don't think either of these things are really good for the country. He's undoubtedly an engaging speaker (though, another logistical complaint: I had a difficult time hearing a lot of what he said - I bet I completely misheard about 20% of the speech because the sound system was so wonky) but I just didn't buy it.
This is a picture of Obama making googly eyes at me.
The next morning, I was in line EARLY to see Clinton. More than two hours before the doors opened, in fact. My friends who saw Obama with me bailed out on Clinton, and I ended up making friends in line with a female pharmacy student at the university who was a Clinton supporter, and an Obama supporter from Helena (He seems like the type who reads blogs, so if he's reading this - hi, Jared!). All three of us had been at the Obama rally the day before with groups of friends or family, and all three of us were coming alone to see Clinton. While waiting in line, a girl in front of me said "The Hillary line is officially a party!" to someone on her cell phone, and I think she was right. It was a pretty jolly bunch of people, and I had a good time.
My new Hillary friends and I snagged seats in the third row of the audience, and sat around for about 2 1/2 hours waiting for Clinton to appear (she was about half an hour late). To be fair, I had a couple of logistical complaints about the Clinton rally as well. Four bathrooms for 1,800 people? Bad idea. The elevator music playing over the sound system? Lame. The chairs? Uncomfortable.
Clinton was introduced by Sen. Carol Williams and Commissioner Jean Curtis. In a DailyKos blog - for which I've lost track of the link - a diarist considered Clinton's big-name local supporters "old-line Democrats," which I think is incredibly disrespectful, considering all the amazing work that women like Carol Williams and Carol Juneau have done in this state. I haven't even been here for a year, and I have a sense of this already. It would do Obama supporters well, I think, not to be so glib about the men and women who support Clinton, and the work we've done for the Democratic Party through the years. I encountered a 77-year-old woman in line who was an ardent Clinton supporter, and expressed many of the frustrations I feel in this primary. I can't listen to MSNBC or Air America anymore. I feel like my point of view is constantly disrespected and is often purposely misconstrued. I could go on, and on, and on, but Jay really made this point for me in his post about Clinton's appearance. We Clinton supporters are real people, and we've come by our positions honestly, and we're tired of being attacked.
As I'm sure you're aware, this was a town hall style meeting, so she took questions from the audience about her campaign, welfare reform, the Americans With Disabilities Act, illegal immigration, the role Bill will play in her administration, the Iraq War, etc. I was really impressed with the detailed information she was able to pull from her head about all of these topics - I'm sure she's asked about some of them at every campaign stop, but some of them were specific to Montana, or were kind of esoteric policy issues that aren't interesting to most people. But she was able to give a specific answer to each questioner. She's an incredibly, incredibly smart lady...she really knows her stuff, and I admire that a lot. I don't always agree with her (I think her immigration reform policy is needlessly punitive, but I get that a lot of people really disagree with me, and she defended Bill's welfare reform act, which is something else I'm not on board with), but I admire that she's willing to give people the opportunity to question her like that, and to criticize her. What I want in a president is someone who is able to think on his/her feet as Clinton did yesterday, someone who is able to move away from the teleprompter for a bit.
She cut the questioning off a little before 1 p.m. so she could shake hands. That probably points to a big difference I saw between the Obama and Clinton appearances. Obama's was really kind of a rock star appearance. He didn't spend much time talking to people, and he certainly didn't answer unscripted audience questions. Hillary answered questions, and then stayed afterward, shaking hands, taking photos, autographing, and talking to people one-on-one. I was three rows from the front, so I wasn't close enough to say anything to her, but I did get to shake her hand and thank her for being there. It was pretty awesome.
I still very sincerely believe that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for president who is still in the running, and the political punditry/media narrative surrounding her candidacy really, really bothers me. However, after seeing Obama speak, I am more at peace with the idea that Obama will probably be the nominee now. His ideas are mostly fine (though his health plan is a real sticking point for me) and he'd obviously be a better president than McCain. If he's the nominee, though, I'll feel very strongly that the best candidate did not win.