Waiting for Bill

Brian Harkin
Former president Bill Clinton, speaking moments ago to a small crowd near Grauwyler Park.
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A surreal scene a couple of hours ago, a real WTF moment: Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, standing in the back of a blue pick-up truck off Harry Hines Boulevard and Anson Road, his backdrop the modest homes lining the narrow street. (Who does he think he is -- Bob Dylan? Huey Long? My dad?) He arrived 55 minutes after his scheduled 10:15 a.m. start time, spoke for about 10 minutes about why the 200 or so assembled should vote for Hillary and not "the other candidate," said things like "She'll always have your back" and "This is a very interesting election" and "What kind of change do you want?," signed a few copies of his book My Life, then headed to his next stop on the campaign trail. It's a scene that'll repeat itself throughout the area during the rest of the day, as the former president tries to get his missus elected the next president.

Only, this morning's gathering lacked the spark of a campaign rally -- maybe it was too cold for that, as the north wind howled through a crowd told to cool its heels till they froze. The campaign had a few guys wandering through the crowd offering free breakfast burritos -- "from the campaign," said the men with their tin-foil treats -- but otherwise, not much fuel there. Said one female Hillary supporter later, "Maybe the other stops will be more ... exciting." Shortly before Clinton got on that truck and started to speak, all you could hear was a helicopter chop-chop-chopping overhead and a female campaign worker shrieking, "Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!"

The only revelation of the morning: The local media discovered why the national media seems to have it in for Clinton. Because her press people treat the press like shit.

Here's a tip to other journalists covering the Clinton campaign from here on out: Do not identify yourself as a journalist. Simple as that. Hide your credentials; do not whip out your notepad; put your camera in your pocket; do not sign the media sign-in sheet. Because that way, the Clintonistas will not be able to ID you as working press and do their damnedest to guarantee you can't actually work, unless you're willing to do it on a barricaded riser away from the actual people attending the event. Sorry, lady, ain't in the transcribing business -- especially when your guy didn't say much besides the usual blah-blah-blah.

"Excuse me, you have to get behind the barricade," said a Clinton campaign worker who softly grabbed my arm about 30 minutes before Clinton finally showed. She pointed to the riser upon which the local TV outlets had perched their cameras. When I asked why I had to move, she said it was to keep cameramen from lugging their tools through the crowd. "But all I have is this notebook and this pen," I said, standing next to a Clinton supporter and Unfair Park reader with whom I'd just been speaking.

This gentleman and I had been talking about the campaign and why he thought Hillary's chances were fading. "Obama has momentum," he said, almost glumly. "And, look, I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976. We all hoped onboard the Hope and Change Express, and it was a total bust. And we paid for it for the next 12 years, with Reagan and Bush. I'm not making the same mistake again."

Before that, I'd been talking to the woman you see at right. Earlier, she'd been holding a Hillary sign. Been waving it around, very proud and happy to support Bill's missus. Then another Clinton campaign worker walked up to and said, "Excuse me, would you mind holding this sign instead?" She then handed the woman the handmade sign that reads, "This one's for Ann!"

"Ann?" said the woman.

"Ann Richards," said the dark-haired Clintonista, shielded by dark, large sunglasses.

"Oh, sure," said the woman, smiling but not totally into it.

"This way," said the campaign worker, "the cameras are behind you, and they'll be able to see the sign when the president speaks." She then walked off, only to reappear later in the role of cheerleader while the crowd waited and waited and waited for Bill to show.

"I should have told her I get paid by the hour," said the woman to her friends. She asked others around her, "Anyone else got any signs they want me to hold? 'Eat at Joe's'? I only charge five dollars."

She let me take her picture my with phone. I was about to ask her name when I was told to get away from the people. To move. Now.

"Um, that's not gonna work for me," I said. "I don't really need to know what other journalists think about this event. I'm good right here. But, ya know, thanks."

"Sir ..." Beneath her wool cap and hip sunglasses and nose piercing, she wasn't gonna take my no as answer. Not that I was the only journalist getting yanked from the crowd. Happened to Nan Coulter, snapping photos for The Dallas Morning News; Dianne Solis, about to conduct an interview for Dallas' Only Daily, was also told to move it. Allison V. Smith, who's been shooting for The New York Times of late, was also escorted back. All the TV folks too, from all the local network affiliates. So, in the end, yeah, all the journalists ended talking to all the other journalists about how shitty the Clinton folks were being to journalists. I believe this is the recipe for a backlash, especially when the phrase, "This didn't happen at the Obama rally last week" was uttered for the 92nd time.

Happened after Clinton spoke too: Brian Harkin, who was there for Unfair Park, tried to join the crowd taking pictures of the former president signing his book and shaking hands. The same campaign worker told him instead to leave the area -- he wasn't allowed anywhere near The People. Harkin, bless him, had been near the front during the entire rally -- the Clintonistas never saw him, or else they would have escorted his ass back to the peanut gallery. Hence, the amazing photos Harkin got -- many of which will be available as a slideshow shortly.

And he wouldn't take no for an answer. "You follow me, and when I get too close you tell me," he said, walking back toward the president. The worker followed, by which I mean, she chased after Harkin and me as we walked back into the holding area we'd just been told to leave, pronto. Of course, by then we were delighted to get the hell out of there. --Robert Wilonsky

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