Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pure Embarrassment

As I mentioned yesterday, I am listening to the Decision Points audiobook. Which is making me think a lot about 2004, so I guess I'll share with you a few more stories from my days working on a Presidential campaign. (These stories are recreated mostly from my memory, any deviation from fact is purely my fault.)

It was July 2004. If you know anything about Arizona, you know that the heat is nearly unbearable in July. But, the show must go on, and Vice President Dick Cheney (VPOTUS to insiders) was coming to Tucson for a campaign rally. This would be the first campaign rally in Arizona.

For some reason, probably my mad organizational skills, I was tapped to head down to Tucson before the rest of our staff. There were a lot of meetings, diagrams, conversations, and tours. 

Let me stop here to tell you the story of Adonis*. Adonis was a secret service agent. Hell, he may still be, I don't run in that circle anymore. So either way, as you can probably gather from his name, Adonis was god-like. He was so good-looking it should have been illegal. On top of that, he was very nice. Being a SS agent, we typically only saw him in a suit. I will also note to you that our campaign staff was comprised of five girls and one guy. The night before the event, three of us girls were sitting in the secure suite at the hotel, making final plans for the next day. As girls are wont to do, we were talking and laughing and having a good time. When all of the sudden the door opened and in stepped Adonis. He was wearing a white t-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, and flips. It was so uncharacteristic I can remember it like it was yesterday. The moment he walked in the room all three of us quit talking/laughing immediately. All we could do was stare. I'm certain that I even blushed. Then, he walked out and we all took a breath and started laughing hysterically.

I miss Adonis.

But, back to the story at hand...

It looked like the event was going to be held at the Pima County Fairgrounds. In one of the buildings where livestock shows are typically held. 

These buildings don't have adequate air conditioning systems, so we would be bringing in three or four large portable units to pump cold air into the building.

A few things that you should know about campaign rallies. Besides being a great way to fire up your supporters, they got a lot of media coverage, especially in a Presidential campaign. For that reason, everything has to look great.

There have to be homemade signs, and flags, and lots of people, and cheering. There is a lot that goes into the whole thing.

As part of the rally, we decided that we would hand out small flags to the attendees. 

Something like this:

So on the day before the event, we were putting these on bleachers and chairs in the VIP section. When a secret service agent came up to us and told us that we would not be able to use the flags. Curious, we asked why not. He said that the posed a hazard to VPOTUS, as someone could poke out his eye. 


After further discussion, they decided that if we could remove the gold piece (it appears yellow in the picture above) from each of the flags, we'd be able to use them.

So we did. But I have to ask you, would you rather be poked in the eye with the pointy gold edge or the blunt edge of the stick?

From that point forward, "It is all fun and games until VPOTUS loses an eye." could be heard in our office on a pretty much daily basis.

Ok, it's the day of the event. The temperature is rising, and people are starting to line up. 

There are three sections in the building, the section furthest to the back is where the SS is bringing the general admit folks in through the magnetometers and where caterers are serving hot dogs and soda. The next section up is where a majority of the attendees will stand during the rally. It is also the site of the press stage, where The Great White Hope and I were in charge of the press. The very front, closest to the stage, was the VIP section and the cut stage for the press to get a different angle.

Directly to the right of the press stage was the door where the press, elected officials, and certain VIPs could be hand-wanded to enter.

 I can't readily recall how many tickets we handed out for the event, but it was a lot. And as you can imagine, it takes a while to get a lot of people through the mags. So the line was getting longer and longer and the day was getting hotter and hotter. Needing to fill up the VIP section, I was sent outside to find people I knew were VIPs to bring through the press door. So off, I went. 

First group, PapaBear and Sissy. I can't remember if they had other with them. And on down the line, I just kept running back and forth between the line of people and the press door.

The place was filling up and all was looking good. And then, people started passing out from dehydration and heat exhaustion in line. Paramedics were bringing people into the building on stretchers and setting them right next to the press stage.

This was a nightmare!

Finally, the event started and things were going great! Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne were on stage. TGWH and I were moving press back and forth to the cut stage. People were cheering, the place looked great.

As I was standing up by the cut stage, admiring how all of the hard work had come together into a great rally, VPOTUS started talking about the importance of getting the right judges appointed to the courts. He pauses to catch his breath, and someone in the front of the crowd yells, "Get Bill Myers on." The Vice President stopped his remarks, looked down at the person and asked, "You know Bill?"

Without being at the front of the stage, I knew, with every fiber of my being, that the person who had yelled at the VP was none other than PapaBear. I was mortified!

Some of the campaign staff were standing backstage watching and they said that they all laughed when the saw the 6-foot-3 man in the cowboy hat talking to the VP like they were old friends. They said to each other, "That's Airplane's dad."

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