While thousands waited up, down and around the Reunion Arena parking garage to see Barack Obama Wednesday, a few hundred packed an Oak Cliff parking lot filled with temporary bleachers this morning to see his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. (I found a parking space around the corner on Jefferson Avenue with little effort, just so you know.) Save the cameras, the pre-speech scene was not all that different than White Rock Marathon registration, with folks huddled together in their little groups, holding supportive signs, getting psyched up, shivering in near-freezing weather.
Dallas city council member Pauline Medrano, whose endorsement of Clinton we mentioned earlier, had the duty of introducing the senator. Her speech focused on Clinton’s ability to lead from “Day One,” a big point in last night’s debate, as well as Clinton’s own speech today.
Clinton took the stage gracefully, thanking Medrano and council member Vonciel Jones Hill and bantering a bit with the crowd. She politely asked a man to put down his sign so everyone could see her and she could see everyone -- adding, at the same time, that she was “grateful for the wonderful sign” -- and a woman somewhere near me noted, “See, she’s in the solutions business!” just as Clinton teased, “See, I solve problems everywhere.” Many you-go-girl's were shouted, and the crowd went wild.
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It was a short speech, well under the half-hour mark, though in her defense it was damned cold. (I claim the same defense for the shaky video you’ll see
once it’s uploadedbelow. Till then, more photos are available in slideshow format here.) The whole thing was yet another show of how Clinton and Obama are so similar: The troops will come home, troops will get medical care, everyone will get health care, and a candidate not named John McCain will be the one to save the environment. She also offered some campaign-trail anecdotes -- one about a woman who can’t afford insurance for her child but makes too much to qualify for benefits, and another one about a four-tour soldier. She spoke not a single ill word about her Democratic opponent, with the exception of referencing one of Medrano’s comments: “Only Hillary Clinton can change hope into reality, promise into practice and words into action.” Not a direct slam so much as a poke, but it got the crowd going.
But Clinton seemed a bit removed. Snipers dotted the surrounding buildings; police could be seen on horseback, on motorcycle, in car and on foot surrounding the area; and while the senator had a smile plastered on her face, she seemed a little guarded. In retrospect, she was likely concerned about the Dallas police officer who crashed his motorcycle into a concrete barricade while riding in her motorcade, an accident that proved fatal. Clinton cut short her Fort Worth appearance to return to Dallas, to visit with the officer's grieving family.
To someone not taking notes, however, there may not have been a detectable difference. The crowd cheered, and throngs moved to the front of the platform for signatures and handshakes following the speech. A private-school class and their teacher showed up too late for the rally but pressed in for a possible meet-and-greet. And as I turned to leave, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and her posse shook hands with officers and on-lookers. --Merritt Martin