John McCain came to San Francisco on the evening of July 28 to host a campaign fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel, atop the city's fabled Nob Hill. This being San Francisco, naturally, demonstrators were there to greet him. But, to my surprise, the rally of about 250 people was evenly divided between McCain detractors and McCain supporters. Yes, that's right -- McCain voters in San Francisco! Will wonders never cease?
This was the principal message of the rally: McCain is exactly like Bush. I suspect we'll be hearing this concept pounded into our heads for the next three months.
MoveOn's "The Bush Legacy" bus kept circling the block. The first couple times it elicited cheers from the Obama supporters in the crowd (seen here along the sidewalk in front of the Fairmont Hotel where the fundraiser was being held), but after over half an hour of going around and around and around, the bus just became annoying, and was greeted with silence even by McCain-bashers.
It's not often that one takes a perfectly allegorical picture. I did not pose those women! The picture just presented itself naturally. The Bush legacy indeed.
Here's the core of the anti-McCain pro-Obama contingent. I've never seen such a mild political protest. Where is the virulence? Where is the extremism? How can you expect to convice anyone with an innocuous presentation like that?
Many of the McCain supporters at the rally were Asian-American. Senior Asian-Americans...
...and every age in-between.
A lot of Asian media was on hand (including this reporter), probably because of the large pro-McCain Asian presence at the rally.
"Latinas for McCain" were there as well. In the background you can see part of the row of protesters lining the block across the street from the Fairmont.
MoveOn's gimmick for the rally was the "Bush-McCain Challenge" in which passersby would try to guess which of five statements was made by Bush or McCain. The whole point is to prove, "See? You can't tell them apart!"
But the questions turned out to be trivial and/or pointless, indicative of nothing. Examples include, "Who said, 'The issue of economics is something that I've never really understood as well as I should.'?" (McCain!) and "While running for President, who called himself 'A different kind of Republican' and promised bipartisan cooperation?" (Bush!) The entire exercise is completely juvenile: One could easily comb through the words of almost any two public figures and find statements that could have been said by either one of them. For example, was it Obama or Hitler who said, "The principal effect of every war is to destroy the flower of the nation....Our country needs peace and desires peace!" It was Hitler! Fooled you! And it proves Obama is indistinguishable from Hitler!
But of course, since the statements were so ridiculous and insignificant, no one (including these two protesters) was able to correctly guess all five in a row. Ha ha ha! Conclusive proof that McCain is exactly like Bush!
Prominent GOP spokesman (and McCain campaign coordinator) Leo Lacayo gave an interview to a local radio station.
An Obama supporter accidentally-on-purpose kept putting his sign directly in Lacayo's face as he was trying to talk. Talk about juvenile behavior.
Here's a video of Leo Lacayo giving part of his pro-McCain interview (after the sign-in-the-face guy was successfully shooed away), followed by a phalanx of anti-McCain protesters chanting "No more Bush WAR," with an odd emphasis on the word "war."
Unlike at most protests, the pro- and anti- sides were not segregated in the slightest, so they just stood intermingled amongst each other. The net effect was a complete muddying of the message, as causal observers couldn't tell what if anything was being advocated.
"Befuddled war monger." Nice! But the argument that rich people generally vote for any candidate who promises to lower taxes (or keep them low) is one of the oldest arguments on the American political landscape. Tell me something I don't already know!
Needless to say, McCain never showed up at the Fairmont's front door to run the gauntlet of protesters. As always happens at such events, he was instead safely ushered in a side door of the hotel.
I was intrigued by the odd spacing of the letters on this sign. Did she write the initial letter and then the final letter first in each word, in an attempt to avoid the classic sign-making blunder of "running out of space," only to end up with too much space as she worked her way toward the center? Or is there some humorous significance to "Ab Stain Fr Om Mc Cain"? [Update: there is some speculation that the gap in the letters may have been designed that way on purpose to accomodate a stick to be used as a sign handle -- an idea which was later abandoned. The stick-friendly spacing remained, however. An intriguing possibility.]
The other theme of the anti-McCain half of the rally was "No Soldier Left Behind," which I've never quite grasped as a coherent argument against the Iraq War. Sure, if we withdraw all our troops, we have left no soldier behind. But if we maintain a military presence in Iraq, we also have not left any soldier behind, since we're still there. So the phrase, by itself, makes no point. The protester on the right side of this photo attempted to illustrate her argument with a scene of American troops pulling out, and abandoning one hapless soldier to his fate. But when has that ever happened in American history? Never. We don't simply abandon individual troops in a country. So what is the purpose of her drawing?
And the protester on the left side of the photo above carried a sign covered with slogans that only might have made sense at the beginning of the war, but which are are now completely irrelevant. What is this -- 2003?
What is this -- 1968?
What is this -- 1989? A lunatic stuck in the first Bush administration showed up to promote his theory that George Bush Sr. killed JFK because Kennedy "saved Cuba from the CIA invasion" (implying that his mis-handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion was intentional) and that he "ordered all U.S. troops out of Vietnam" (and re-deployed them to Fantasyland).
He tried to convince one woman of his theory, and she replied, "You do realize I support McCain -- right?", which brought a quick end to that conversation.
He next tried his luck with some Obama supporters, but they seemed just as dubious.
The MoveOn organizers must have over-estimated the number of people who might show up, if the stacks of unused signs on the sidewalk were any indication.
Wesley was too busy showing his sign to the camera to notice that his dream girl was standing right behind him!
Just after I left the protest, I saw a Bomb Squad truck rushing back up the hill toward the Fairmont. I didn't follow it, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone had called in a (probably bogus) bomb threat in order to disrupt the McCain fundraiser.
But the cops (and any presidential candidates) have reason to be extra vigilant in San Francisco: It was here at this side entrance to the St. Francis Hotel (just a few blocks away from the Fairmont) that Sara Jane Moore shot at Gerald Ford in 1975. I took this photo from the exact spot where Sara Jane Moore stood when she fired the gun.