Thursday, November 02, 2006
Bill Clinton Comes to Civic Center
On Wednesday the 1st at 5PM, a rally was held in San Francisco's Civic Center urging the passage of California State Proposition 87, which is basically a call for a windfall profits tax on oil companies to fund programs for alternate fuels.
A couple of thousand people showed up in the hopes of seeing the rock star of Democratic politics, former president Bill Clinton, who has been stumping for the proposition.
An emcee announced all the excitement that was to ensue, including performances by famous musicians and speeches from famous politicians.
Any excitement in the crowd was soon deflated by the first speaker, Phil Ting, who is running for re-election as Assessor of San Francisco.
Not only did he have an annoying, squeaky voice on the microphone, but he droned on incomprehensibly about how this was an issue that was especially meaningful to minorities and "people of color."
The very smart and amusing group of spectators surrounding me all looked at each other with a "what the hell" gesture since air pollution from burning fossil fuels is a non-racial issue if ever there was one.
Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer for the "alternative" rock band Third Eye Blind was next onstage and his acoustic performance was simply dreadful with each dull song sounding the same. The only political commentary from him was the repeated statement, "We must be doing something right with this proposition because the oil companies have spent one hundred billion dollars to defeat it." Being an international rock star seems to have fostered a confusion between the amounts "million" and "billion."
When Jenkins asked the crowd what they wanted to hear next, after about five songs had already been played to little effect, the Croatian law student above yelled, "Silence!"
Next up was San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who uttered inanities...
...that were amusingly reflected by the sign language interpreter.
Finally, he left the stage after introducing the singer Bonnie Raitt.
Now this was a professional, who knew how to check out sound balances with the tech guys while keeping up an amusing musical commentary for the crowd...
...and then pitching into an inspired account of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."
After two songs, she exited and various dignitaries took the stage to tell us that Clinton was a little late, but he was on his way.
We were then subjected to a stupid speech by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who repeated the trope that this was an issue that was especially important for "people of color," and then we listened to "Desperate Housewives" co-star Eva Longoria give an impassioned speech in English and Spanish about why we should vote Yes on Proposition 87.
"Is Gavin having sex with her too?" somebody in the crowd wanted to know.
Finally, a good hour late, The Big Dog Clinton himself showed up...
...and the media swarm went into overdrive.
Clinton is an extraordinary speaker, who talked about hope and the future and how not to fear that future. His advocacy of Proposition 87 mixed quotations from Machiavelli and down-home Arkansas jokes in a manner that was direct, simple, funny and smart.
By the end of the twenty-minute speech the entire audience was inspired and ready for action in a way that none of the previous speakers, with the exception of Bonnie Raitt, could summon. It made us all want to vote for him again.
Plus, he waded into the crowd at the end, starting off at the area which I had just foolishly vacated in order to miss the crush of people exiting. "Clinton came right up to us and shook our hands," my speech-listening compatriots told me on the plaza afterwards. "It was great."