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."


Beth Spotswood said...

While reading this, I was torn. Much like your other readers, I kept wondering: "Who is hotter? Gavin or Bill?"
Truth be told, Bill has better taste in women. After pondering it, I realized something.
I'm half Hilary and half Monica.
Bill it is!

Kimo C said...

SFMike I was there too and so pleased to run into your other half who reported you were back and covering the event!

give me a call while you're here if you want to catch-up!

Wonderful coverage for you on sfist and well deserved!

Anonymous said...

"It made us all want to vote for him again." Indeed! The wait last night for Bill was well worth it.

Very nice job recapturing last night's events with great humor. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

inspired reporting.

you're going to get me into american politics soon, if you are not careful

Anonymous said...

The "people of color" speeches have to do with the fact that environmental issues are viewed as "white" issues. I for one am pleased to see environmental issues being pitched to non whites as "quality of life" issues. Too often, issues like prop 87 are sold as "protect our surf/scenic/hiking spot". That reflects the history of the environmental movement, especially here in Calfornia. For all the good they've done, the Sierra Club is still seen as a special interest group for wealthy nature lovers.

Anonymous said...

Since my picture appears above the statement that environmental issues are unrelated to racism, I must clarify that as an environmental justice advocate, I hold no such mistaken conviction. Often the first in fire of environmental degradation are poor people of color, as can be seen from asthma statistics in the Bronx, NY, to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, to residents of Hunter's Point, SF....and the list continues... I believe that the unleashing of sustainable and renewable energy resources holds much promise for the health and wealth of people of color primarily, as well as the rest of us. Inexpensive distributed electricity generation solutions, moreover, are the key to battling poverty and pollution in the developing world, thereby greatly enhancing the health of this precious Planet we all call home.

Civic Center said...

Dear anonymous: Clarification noted. Poor people have always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to living around poisons which doesn't strike me as a racial issue so much as a class issue. The oil-burning energy culture has to stop soon, however, or all colors and classes are doomed.