I enjoyed the Hillary Clinton for president rally held by President Barack Obama at the White Oak Amphitheatre at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
I didn’t know that I would, but President Obama was clearly having such a good time it was infectious.
First, let me offer special thanks to Coliseum Manager Matt Brown, who stepped up and helped me get in. There was some problem with my press credentials and I don’t think it was caused by my party affiliation. Having Brown go to bat for me with the Hillary Clinton campaign made the difference.
That also explains why I missed some of the opening acts, although I did get in to hear some of City Councilmember Jamal Fox’s speech. My favorite part, and the crowd’s favorite part, was when he admonished them “To vote early and often.”
Former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Henry Frye introduced President Obama, and in his introduction he noted that as a young man he had been denied the right to register to vote because he couldn’t pass the so-called literacy test. He also said that years ago, when asked if he thought the US would ever have a person of color as president, he said, yes, but not in my lifetime, and that Obama proved him wrong on that one.
I don’t know how many people they turned away, but the amphitheater was packed and the line of people waiting to get in stretched out of sight.
I missed Obama when he came here eight years ago and was a young-looking black-haired fellow trying to become president. His hair, as he noted, is no longer black, and he no longer looks young, but he still knows how to get a crowd going.
This was certainly not a staid State of the Union address or a speech about some world crisis where the president reads every word. I have no idea how much of this speech was off the cuff, but I think a lot of it, and probably the parts that got the biggest crowd responses.
I really liked the way Obama dealt with the protestors, and there were a few. There was no anger, just amusement. But Obama is not running for office. He has already won the biggest prize in politics twice and will never again have to get in front of an audience and try to convince them he should be the leader of the free world.
Obama is clearly enjoying what he can of his last months in office, and one of those things is getting in front of a friendly crowd and having some fun.
When he was talking about North Carolina and said, “Now, this will probably be one of the last times I get to visit as president,” he got a resounding, “No,” from the audience. Obama responded, “It’s OK. I’m going to come back more when I’m not president. Now I’m just allowed to come on business. I’m coming for fun to North Carolina next time I come.”
Obama said that he and Michelle were making sure they hadn’t broken any china or messed up anything in the White House because their lease was only for eight years and they wanted to get their security deposit back.
He might have said more about that but he got interrupted by protestors who revealed they had “Bill Clinton Rapist” on their T-shirts when they took their outer shirts off. The crowd started chanting, “Hillary,” and Obama said, “This is the great thing about politics in America. It just takes all kinds. Folks will do all kinds of stuff.”
The protestors were ushered out by Coliseum security staff, which looks so much better than having police officers hustle them out.
A few minutes later when he was interrupted again, Obama said, “Is somebody hollering again? You know what? Here’s the deal. Try to get your own rally. Try to get your own rally. You got to get your own rally. See, if you can’t get your own rally, don’t come mess up somebody else’s rally. We got work to do here.”
And Obama did do some work. He gave the standard talking points on Hillary Clinton – experienced, hard working and well qualified – and about Trump – “Somebody who, over and over again has proven himself unfit to be president.”
Obama said he thought his opponents were honorable men. He said he disagreed with them on politics but he didn’t think that if they were in the Oval Office “that America would spin out of control.”
Then he said, “But look, and I’m being honest here, that is not the case with the current Republican nominee. He doesn’t have the temperament, or the judgment, or the knowledge, or apparently the desire to obtain the knowledge or the basic honesty that a president needs to have.”
The crowd loved that line.
He said that any decent human being who heard what Trump had said about women would say, “that’s not right.” He then reminded voters that they could do something to keep Trump out of the White House and that was to go vote, and that early voting started next Thursday.
He asked the people to “reject a dark and pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other and turn away from our role as leaders in the world.” He said, “You can reject fear and resentment and blame and anger and hate and choose the America we know, an America that is full of courage and optimism and generosity and ingenuity.”
Later he implied that Trump would take America back to the days of Jim Crow, when blacks weren’t allowed to vote, which seemed to be quite a stretch but the crowd loved it.
Obama also got in some good lines that weren’t so over the top. He said that nobody, including him, really knew what it took to be president until they have sat in the Oval Office and had to make those decisions of life and death.
He said, “And so, like, tweeting doesn’t qualify you. Sound bites don’t qualify you. Insults certainly don’t qualify you.”
He said nobody knew what it took but Hillary Clinton has been closer to those decisions than anyone.
Obama also poked a little fun at Hillary being such a policy wonk. He said that he asked his Cabinet members for advice on what could be done without the help of Congress, since Congress run by the Republicans didn’t seem to want to do anything (something even Republicans could agree with), and from Hillary Clinton he received 12 pages single spaced with footnotes.
When yet another protestor interrupted him, Obama said, “He was OK. He’s OK. You know what this is? Our democracy at work. This is great.” And then to the audience, “Hold up, hold up a second. I heard some people booing. What have I said before? Don’t boo,” and the audience replied, “Vote.”
That resulted in a chant led by the president of the United States, who kept saying, “Don’t boo,” and the audience would reply, “Vote.”
Obama did say that 99 percent of scientists believe global warming is an issue that people need to do something about.
The figure that is often repeated is 97 percent, and it is a made up figure. What it boils down to is that 97 percent of the scientists who believe in global warming believe in global warming. It should really be 100 percent, but like so many figures that are bandied about, the 97 percent is not based on research. But, Obama isn’t running for anything and is a Democrat, so nobody was fact checking his speech as he went along.
If someone were fact checking they might have noted that Obama said that you shouldn’t demonize your political opponents, just disagree with them, but he pulled out all the stops in demonizing Trump. The crowd loved it, but if you are trying to take the political discussion to a higher level you can’t criticize your opponent for getting personal and then get personal right back.
Obama didn’t forget the local candidates. He said that Deborah Ross was needed in the Senate and reminded people to vote for North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper for governor.
One of the many nice things Obama said about Hillary Clinton was that she would bring stronger regulations to Wall Street.
Hillary Clinton has received so much money from Wall Street and is so tied to the top dogs on Wall Street it is hard to imagine her doing anything that Wall Street didn’t like.
Obama was critical of Trump for not paying taxes.
I’ve seen Obama’s tax returns, although I can’t say I read them all. But it appeared that he took the deductions that were allowed, like most people, and then paid the taxes he had to pay, which happens to be exactly what has gotten Trump in so much trouble.
Obama did say he didn’t know how a casino owner could lose a billion dollars in a year because “They say the house always wins.” He didn’t dispute that it was a legitimate deduction, but implied that Trump should have paid taxes anyway.
Obama talked much more about the failings of Trump than he did about Hillary Clinton, but that’s a lot more fun, and the president appeared to be having a very good time from start to finish. He’d get back to his speech and make the points that he had to make, but then he’d be off again playing to the crowd.
A pet peeve I have with politicians who campaign in the South is when they start talking with a fake Southern accent. Hillary Clinton does it very poorly and Obama does it pretty well for a man who was born in Hawaii and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, attended colleges in California, New York and Boston and lived most of his adult life in Chicago.
A fake Southern accent makes me feel like they are talking down to me, like I wouldn’t understand them if they pronounced the g on the ends of words. Obama does it well, but it’s not real. I’d much rather hear him talk like he does at home, or out on the golf course, but he is the president of the United States and he can talk however he wants.
I was not in the small press group that followed Obama around all day and didn’t get close enough to him to even shout a question. But I did think about what I would ask him. If I got one question, I’d ask him, if he had it to do all over again, would he, in one of this first days in office, return the statute of Winston Churchill to Great Britain. It’s a small thing, but his answer would reveal a lot about the man, not the politician. And he’s leaving office so he could be honest.
I’m not going to put words in his mouth so I won’t speculate about what the answer might have been.