Today Senator McCain visited the Kirby center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA. I found out about it when Brooke mentioned it to me. It was raining, but I braved the elements to see what was going on. It turned out to be a “Town Hall” meeting where the candidate would speak briefly and then answer questions from the assembled citizens. I checked with the Secret Service and found out that I was able to bring my camera inside, so I decided to attend.
The Kirby center is a fairly small theatre and it was about 90 percent full when the show began when was a decent turnout for the middle of the morning on a work day. I was plensently surprised that all horror stories of the past about attending political rallies were not true in this case. I was not forced to display McCain stickers and there was no real pressure from the volunteers to voice support for their candidate.
The staged people were placed on the main stage behind the speakers and was a rather racially homogenous mixture of white men and women of various ages. I saw no obvious Asians or Hispanics and only one young African-American. While it can be said that NEPA is mostly white, they should have been able to muster up a bit more racial diversity.
The Senator’s speech was fairly brief and centered mostly on the economy, especially dealing with the current oil market, and he also touched on the Iraq war.
After the speech came the questions. They appeared to come from random audience members. I had always heard that people were pre selected, and this didn’t appear to be the case. There were questions about education, the war, veterin’s medical care, campaign finance reform, and even the draft. I was impressed with the Senator’s ability to maneuver these topics, even if they were difficult.
The biggest issue that I disagreed with was when the Senator promised to use his veto pen to reduce earmark and “pork” spending bills. This of course is impossible in the current system and while he expressed a desire to get some sort of constitutional line-item veto, he did not expand on any concrete ideas how to do this.
While I can’t say that McCain’s campaign stop made up my mind to vote for him, it certainly was more informative then trying to get a feel for him from the media. I just hope that I will have the opportunity to evaluate Senator Obama in the same way.
I have posted some pictures on Flickr.