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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Actually written September 17, 2008
This post-dated post is deep in my archives because it is of a political nature and politics is not the primary purpose of Patterns of Ink. But I gave myself an interesting "writing assignment" tonight and thought it may be of interest to some readers.

I'm sitting at an event that will be shown live on many webcasts and "cut to" on virtually every news channel. Not only am I here, but for reasons I’ll not explain I have a VIP pass in my chest pocket which allowed Julie and I and two friends to enter early and be ushered to seats directly behind the dais. I now have ninety minutes with nothing better to do so I thought I’d attempt to hand write a post from here. I’m writing on the back of a “Reserved” sign because—in spite of the very important “I” in VIP—I’m not allowed to have a lap-top in here. [My pass should say NSIP: Not So Important Person.]

On the opposite side of the arena, however, I see scores of lap-tops open on bare tables and glowing on the faces of journalists. A little while ago, with a flash of my VIP pass, I was allowed to walk in their midst, nodding as if I belonged there. Most of them are the unknown writers who give “copy” to the faces we see each night on TV, but a few of them are the “on the scene” reporters we’ve come to vaguely recognize on cable networks. In every corner and at every aisle of this swarming bee-hive, I see men in black talking into their sleeves—on second glance, I see some women doing the same—these folks are all business and their robotic heads seem to be scanning the growing crowd as if with X-ray vision. They don’t look at you—they look in you. They are on “our side” but their very presence is a reminder of the fallen, broken world we share with drastic men.

I must admit, I’m feeling very privileged to be in “hand shake” range of the two people en route. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was to see their eyes as they talk to a crowd. The eyes say so much about a person, and so much has been said about these two in the past three weeks that I want to see for myself what’s real. Here where we are I can smell the brand new royal blue carpet on the small stage across in front of me.

At this moment, the rafters are rocking and the floor is vibrating from voice and bass riffs of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation.” You know the song (revived via Robert’s wedding episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”)

"A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark…
Don't procrastinate, don't articulate"

Back when Elvis sang that song, it was good cause for fatherly consternation, but as an opener for a candidate who is not particularly articulate but known far more for a lifetime of action… it couldn’t be a better fit.

This arena is already packed—standing room only—with a jostling line still waiting to get in. Just above the crowd, the klieg lights are not all lit, and of the 25+ television camera tripods stationed around the room, only four are manned. That will change in an hour, I’m sure. I’ve been to such events before: in 1980 and 84, I sat waiting for Ronald Reagan to arrive. I was to his right—that is my seat was to his right—about the only way I’d care to be “to the right” of Ronald Reagan. I’ve been at such events for every Presidential race since then, but never have I been seated this close to the speakerS.

That last word is, perhaps, the most telling word in this report. You’ll notice I said speakerS with an “S” at the end, plural. You know where I’m going with this, but it is a reality that cannot be ignored. Books will be written about this particular political race no matter what the outcome is. The question is what kind of shelves will hold the books. If tonight’s speakerS, as a team, win on November 4th, library shelves will bend under the weight of the books praising and cursing its historic significance. If they do not win, far fewer books will be written and many of them will be on “CLEARANCE” shelves with faint hope of political resurrection. The same can be said of books about the opposing Presidential candidate, but the “S” he chose to make his ticket plural is far less important to his success. In fact, his “S” will matter only if he loses. Because in that event, his loss will be rightly blamed on his wrong choice of “S.” It was that safe choice that opened the door for the two speakerS coming here tonight.

The feelings run deep for the VEEP slot of this year’s Republican ticket. Never has a choice stirred such a venomous, vomitous reaction from those who “hate” her, while at the same time stirring deepening admiration from those who see in her a new kind of leader. The purpose of this post is not to stir readers to either extreme reaction. (So if you choose to comment, be civil.)
Congressman Pete Hoekstra just stepped to the dais. I’m signing off for now, when I resume writing on this scrap of paper after, I hope merely to tell you what I'm watching and venture a guess as to whether or not this momentum has peaked as many have discussed.

Okay… the event is over. In case, you still don't know what it was, I’m at the McCain/Palin “Town Hall Meeting” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here are some details you may not hear or read elsewhere.

I don’t know it has always been true, but John McCain enters the arena to Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Click this link to hear those iconic notes and imagine thousands of people waiting for this most veteran of senators to step from the tunnel at the far end of what could pass for a Military airplane hanger. Regardless of one’s politics, hearing that “common man” theme, those regal French horns, and the tympani echoing as if through time itself, the build-up was impressive. For me, I again realized that the man we are about to see is a one-of-a-kind American, the likes of which my generation and his may never see again.

And then he enters in, crippled arms waving to the crowd. And along side him there's a woman, who in her own way may someday inspire a rendition of Copeland’s song entitled “Fanfare for the Common Woman.” Because, my Friends, [Did I just say “My friends”?—that’s a side affect of the past hour of intense listening to Mc Cain.] My friends, say what you will about this lady, it is her extraordinary commonness that is her chief appeal. When all is said to both praise and pounce on the Governor from Alaska, it is her unbleached muslin quality—not some “lily white linen” nor even the mud-stained cloak of her past three weeks—but the unbleached, rough-hewn fabric of this woman’s story that has brought her to the fore.

[I’m now home at my computer—scribbling on a sheet of paper was nearly impossible in the aftermath of tonight’s event.]

Let’s see… where was I? Oh, yes, I was talking about the "Fanfare for the Common Man." Now add this to the mix, during all that fanfare, in slipped a quiet unassuming man just a few seats to my right. No one notice him. He did not sit on the dais but in the seats along side the “common folk.” We didn’t see him until Senator McCain walked toward him and asked him to stand. And there, beaming from ear to ear, was Todd Palin. [See him interviewed here Part 1 and here Part 2 and other "parts" at that site.] He waved in all directions and just as the applause peaked sat down again, content to be out of the limelight.

I watched him often throughout the rest of the evening. His genuine smile and confident, merry eyes were constant, but he did not respond to the cheers and applause around him. He was clearly proud to be there, but knew his is a quiet supporting role to his wife who in turn clearly understands her supporting role to McCain. In the two weeks since her speech at the convention, this political duo has found a rhythm in their interaction on stage. It works, and for those hoping the wheels will soon fall off this bandwagon, I saw no signs of that tonight. Are they perfect? No. But McCain is a better candidate because of her, and she is a far more plausible candidate along side of him, which brings me to my next point.

Much has been said about the qualifications of all the candidates—including one candidate who is no longer in this race, Hillary Clinton. How many times have the “talking heads” from both sides of the aisle asked “Is he/she the most qualified person to be running for President or the Veep slot?” Here’s news: I doubt that ANY Presidential candidate EVER to run for office has ever been THE most qualified to fill it. [Click on photo of McCain to enlarge. Julie and I are to the left of his shoulder. Julie is in pink; I'm in black.]

If there were some way to actually determine the “most qualified” candidate in the citizenry of a nation, some bigger questions would still exist: Does that person have the stomach for politics and can that person connect with the common man in order to inspire a following? That is the essence of political leadership. For good or bad, the candidates “following” must translate into a majority of motivated voters, state by state, across the land.

Don't get me wrong a candidate's experience, character, and gut-check preparedness for "such a time as this," are very important, but they only get put in place if the people rally to elect. McCain's choice has made that more likely to happen for him. Tonight I witnessed continuing proof of that.

Before I close, beyond the “most qualified” question, there is another question we hear during political races that is completely meaningless because its terms are undefined. You’ve heard it in countless polls that for some reason get reported as if it's shocking news. It is the answer to this survey question that has much of “the media,” pollsters, and spin doctors perplexed. Here’s the poll question:

“Is the country headed in the wrong direction?”

In any given week, we may hear that 80% of those asked feel America's headed in the wrong direction. If that is true, some people conclude, then there should be no way for a Republican presidential candidate to win an election in 2008. But the question is meaningless because the word direction is not defined. Are we talking economic direction? Military direction? Moral direction? The question never tells us. Because of that, Pamela Anderson would answer the question “Yes, it’s going in the wrong direction” for reasons shared by her Hollywood peers and the 50% of America that cares what "stars" think. Meanwhile the other 50% of America may also answer “Yes” because they shudder at the thought that the opinions of Pamela Anderson reflect the collective conscience of so many. So you see, the answer to the “wrong direction” question is meaningless in that the “yes” responses are often interpreted as a unified assessment while actually masking opposing concerns and conflicting solutions.

That is the essence of politics, and I for one would not choose to be in the business. I don't have the stomach for it, but I do find it fascinating from an arm’s length as I saw it tonight (Yes, that arm's length was close enough to shake hands and get autographs when it was over.) As is true of many people this year, I have good friends still "undecided" in this election, and I can see the initial appeal of both choices. But just in case you’re wondering where I stand, when the curtain of the voting booth closes behind me, there will be no room for Pamela Anderson inside.

Oh, one other thought: Who is the person described below:

I am under 45 years old,
I love the outdoors,
I love to hunt,
I am a Republican reformer,
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
I have many children,
I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

You guessed it... Teddy Roosevelt!

Updates Posted as November 4 approaches:
9-21-08 Sarah draws 60,000 in Florida Sarah wakes up California
9-22-08 NBC's SNL crosses the line. "What makes a generation laugh and cry tells you much about that generation." TK. If the Palins respond to this, they will simply make it more "news worthy," but I'm telling you, folks, the media underestimates the millions of voters who will find the Palin's character all-the-more remarkable as they turn the other cheek. Note to Palin family: You turn the cheek; we'll turn the channel. As for me and my house, no more NBC or MSNBC.

This article by Victor Davis Hanson rationally explains the difference between "head knowledge" and the common sense of wisdom, which is why he has confidence in Governor Palin.

A post VP debate phone interview with Palin.


Blogger Dr.John said...

I enjoyed your "political blog" because unlike so many it was not filled with hate speech or attack words.

18/9/08 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Sigh! I'm really at a loss of words...mainly because there was SO much content to this post and to comment, I'd wish I could do it in person as it would be lengthy.
What you share has alot of wisdom in it. I can't believe that you had the clarity of thought to "write" long-hand in such a venue. My "mind's eye" brought a cacophany (did I spell that right?)of sights and sounds, that for me would have been very distracting.
I envy you for the experience!! We can only pray regardless of "the direction" that our country is headed! Oh..and I concur with Dr. John's comment as well.

18/9/08 5:26 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John,
Thanks for clicking the extra link to get here. I know of your distaste for politics, so your feedback means alot to me. I never thought of this before, but I'll bet Yoopers can relate to Alaskans better than most Midwesterners.

Hey. Good to hear from you. It's been a while. I think you spelled cacophany correctly and, yes, you hit the nail on the head it was a raucous din! But I wanted to write "in the moment." One of our friends, kept looking over at me scribbling away as we waited. "What are you doing?" she shouted once. "Writing!" I shouted back. She doesn't know about this blog, so maybe I'll direct her to this.

18/9/08 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been awhile since I've commented BUT you haven't written alot either. That being said, I've been busy with "stuff" and "life" mostly. Got hooked on Facebook which really takes a life on of it's own (LOL)! It has made me think...maybe having a blog wouldn't be such a bad thing (instead). If I were to--tell me this one thing---can you have one and not be too public?? I don't want to show up on Google etc.

I'll be back to check in here....keep on writing though!!!

19/9/08 2:27 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I have many people telling me I need to start a Facebook account. I'm afraid I would not be able to keep up with it. If you started a blog at blogger.com say it was called "Wisconsin Sandwich Lady" (that still makes me laugh) you could just never use your real name, etc. Be as anonymous as you like. Patterns of Ink does show up on Google. I'm not sure how to prevent that, but there may be a way. If I were you, I'd do it.

19/9/08 7:14 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Tom, you did a fabulous job writing this piece...as always.

I have been especially interested in people's reaction to Sarah Palin. You seem to be picking up what others are picking up about her that being she is authentic. I wrote to another blogger recently using similar words to describe her. I recall that I said she was a genuine article.

How she is able to withstand the vicious attacks made on her character and that of her family members is not so much a mystery to me because she is a Christian. I can imagine that she has put on the armor of God. I don't usually use such religious expressions, but in her case it seems most appropriate.

Recently the reference to Teddy Roosevelt has been showing up here and there in the blogs and other places.

Does she have what it takes to be the VP, or the President should McCain be elected and pass away during this term? I am willing to withhold judgment until after she has had a chance to show us what she is made of in the debates.

I am still not back to maintaining my own blog. I have been very busy in the lives of our children helping out with the grandchildren. That is not likely to change. But I do find time to visit some blogs now and then and leave a comment or two.

19/9/08 11:11 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It is so good to hear from you. It's been ages, but I do understand. I agree that the debate will be an important test and Sarah's chance to disprove the venom. Most of it will be easy to disprove since she is nothing like the characature the media and old-guard feminists have hastily created. I suspect she will do fine agaist Biden and the moderators. It's the spin-doctors afterwards who will do the dirty work. We'll see.

Thanks for stopping by, and you just keep taking care of those loved ones. Hae a wonderful fall.

20/9/08 6:03 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

WOW! What an experience! Thanks for sharing. I even listened to the music and it really makes your blood flow faster. I can't imagine actually being there. You have added to my excitement... I've been reading everything that I can find on the internet and even though there is really no decision for me to make- I like to go in to that booth educated. Thanks for the insight.

20/9/08 11:24 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...


While our politic is diametrically opposed, I like you, your observations and your style of writing.

I am not one to vilify Palin, even though I don't like much of her Alaskan gubernatorial policy.

regarding the wolves and bears

regarding the attempt to have her brother in law fired because she could and subsequently firing the head of the public safety for not complying with her implied wishes.

for the way she handled oil companies that invest billions, and she sweeps in with an unneeded tax. Raising the cost of crude for the rest of then nation.

in her claims to have refused the "bridge to nowhere" pork, when in fact it died before she took office, but Alaska under her tenure, kept the money.

in her using state transportation funds to fly her husband and daughter to non state events.

I personally don't care what her religious affiliations are. I would like her to say that she is a Christian fundamentalist not that she goes to a "non-denominational Christian church," but that is me. It seems disingenuous to me, but again that is my perception.

That she is untested on the much larger national stage is of no consequence. As you have said not the best qualified have led this nation before and some of them did a fine job.

McCain, sorry I don't buy into the rhetoric which changes daily with the political situation. I don't buy into his "American hero" status. I too am a veteran of the navy. While I believe that his tenure in the Hanoi Hilton was a horrible experience. As bad as any WWII or Korean war veterans prisoner experience, McCain's military service overall was not anything beyond what many other veterans experienced except that his father was a 4 star admiral as was his grandfather.

The man graduated in the BOTTOM 1% of his Annapolis class, he crashed 3 airplanes and never would have qualified for flight school had not the family pulled a string or two. Those slots are reserved for the TOP 15% of any graduating class.

Carl Levin has the same amount of time in congress and I don't hear any of the same rumbling over his tenure as I do McCain's. Agree or disagree, Levin is a senator who slogs through. To me McCain lusts for power, not to make things better on main street, but to make them better for them who already have it good enough.

Pamela Anderson...Tom that is a spin shot still rolling on the rim. The woman is a twit headed for reality TV. She is not an American but a Canadian, so why let her thoughts influence me? I don't allow for the thoughts of others enough I suppose but in this case you're correct in not letting her behind the curtain when you pull the lever.

Personally I think Joe Biden is the strongest name on either ticket. Combined income with his, school teacher wife less than 375k per annum.

Well versed during his tenure in the Senate with both foreign and financial policy. To me head to head his qualifications for the slot of VP far outshines Palin's. The VP is not like the Kennedy marginalization of LBJ anymore. The VP isn't just a ribbon cutter, face at state visits the president doesn't want to bother with anymore.

For the past four administrations beginning with Reagan, the VP has been given more responsibility than ever before in our history.

Witness Chaney. So secretive and so much lever pulling that we know about, it's scary. And to think that McCain will be able to return to the days of sending a face out to cut ribbons at store openings is absurd. The President will need to have his VP at his side, no matter which party moves in, in January.

No one moves the lever for me when I close the curtain. I simply, like you try to surround myself with them that most closely match my own ideology and thought as to where the nation needs to be.

21/9/08 6:55 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I actually commented on your comment a few days ago, but now I see the comment isn't there. I must have done something wrong. Oh, well...

There is a difference between going long in a comment and "boiling over" and I thank you, Mark, for not boiling over. I could rebut each point at length but that is not my purpose. I will simply say that I've studied the very same points you mention about Palin and have drawn very opposite conclusions. Our political thoughts on McCain himself may be more similar than you'd suspect, but as I compare the life experience that has forged the character of both McCain and Obama, I choose McCain and think, in the end, millions more will do the same.

As for VP, I agree it is because that position is so important that I'm very happy to have a woman so uniquely prepared for such a time as this on the ticket. But since neither of us is likely to change the other's mind, I'll simply say I'm glad to count you as a friend with a different perspective.

23/9/08 7:31 AM  

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