I was in the mood for some excitement, so I drove out to Newton, the county seat of Jasper County, to hear Hillary Clinton. I got here early, so I ate lunch at the Midtown Café, in the heart of downtown, where the clientele was mainly older ladies (by which I mean ladies roughly my age) and large agricultural-looking men in bib overalls.
The menu had an item called the Pancake Challenge: “$14 if you fail, no leaving of table and no help.” I asked the waitress about it, and she said the pancakes are gigantic. “Only one person ever beat the Pancake Challenge,” she said.
So I went with the daily special, which was cream chipped beef on biscuits. It came in a portion the size of a four-person life raft. It was a meal suitable for working men, men in bib overalls who perform hard agricultural labor such as baling soybeans or neutering heifers. It was not suitable for a newspaper columnist whose most strenuous physical activity is typing in the Wi-Fi code. But it tasted good, and it will be lodged in my stomach for years to come.
After taking the Chipped Beef Challenge I staggered over to the Clinton event, which was held in the Berg Middle School gymnasium. There was a banner with the Hillary logo and the slogan “Fighting for us.”
Clinton was introduced by a slick video, which listed the many achievements she has accomplished in her lengthy career of holding positions while at the same time being a woman. Then Clinton came out and delivered her speech, which contained a LOT of specific policy information, and statements such as “I’m proposing something called the National Infrastructure Bank.” At one point, talking about wind power — Wind power is important! — she informed us how many parts are in a turbine. It was something like 900, which I think we can all agree is an impressive number of turbine parts, but it’s not the kind of thing that excites people. The crowd, which was very pro-Hillary, applauded at the right times and even emitted some “Whoo!”s, but they didn’t seem really fired up.
I am no political consultant, but I think Clinton’s main image problem is that, while she wants us to believe she’s Fighting For Us, the main vibe she gives off is that she’s Way Smarter Than Us. (To be fair: I think Ted Cruz has the same problem.)
From the Hillary event I drove back to Des Moines to see the Donald Trump Show. He was boycotting the Republican debate because it was run by losers who disrespected Trump because they are stupid and by the way also idiots. So he was holding his own event, which was a tribute to veterans, in the same sense that an Elvis concert was a tribute to Elvis’ backup band. I mean, the event did raise a bunch of money for veterans, which is a fine thing, but the true focus of the evening, as the crowd repeatedly let everybody know by standing up and yelling it, was TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP! etc.
The crowd was much more animated than at the Hillary event. Also there was a far larger press corps, including many foreign press people who LOVE the Trump story because it confirms everything they believe about Americans.
In his remarks, Trump made these points:
▪ He’s a winner who knows how to do deals.
▪ The stupid idiots running our government have made terrible deals with China and Iran.
▪ He loves the Chinese, personally, but he would never let them make these terrible deals.
▪ He has made a LOT OF MONEY making deals.
▪ He has a beautiful wife and incredible family.
▪ Wind power is very important.
No, I’m kidding about that last one. Trump made no mention of wind power, although there’s no question that if the nation needs turbine parts, he would definitely get a great deal on them.
Driving back to my hotel, I listened to the official Republican debate, which sounded like the standard festival of nitpicking over who is most opposed to illegal immigration. So I was glad about my decision not to attend. Although I am starting to deeply regret the chipped beef.
Join Dave & Carl
What: Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry and award-winning columnist Carl Hiaasen will discuss the 2016 presidential election campaign. They’ll discuss other topics, too — such as why is Florida so weird — and attempt to answer audience questions, provided they don’t involve math.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1
Where: Miracle Theater, Coral Gables, Fla.
Register online: davecarlelection2016.bpt.me