Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio), Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) during a campaign rally at the Ross County Courthouse on Oct. 10, 2008 in Chillicothe, Ohio. (Mark Lyons/Getty Images)
While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There is one certainty of the future of a people of the resources, intelligence and character of the people of the United States---that is, prosperity.
---President Herbert Hoover - May 1, 1930
Losing a job is painful, and I know Americans are concerned about our economy; so am I. It's clear our economy has slowed, but the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses.
---President George W. Bush - March 7, 2008 on news that the economy lost 63,000 payroll jobs in February.
The singular feature of the great crash of '29 was that the worst continued to worsen.
---John Kenneth Galbraith.
Barack Obama campaigned in Ohio before this week, but his emphasis consistently had been upon the cities in the northern part of the state. Toledo, Cleveland, Youngstown. He had touched Columbus, in Central Ohio, and even swooped down for an invitation-only appearance at Hocking College in Nelsonville before the primary. I didn't get an invitation or even hear about the visit, as there was a huge push to get-out-the-vote that day at Obama headquarters in our town. I resented that his visit wasn't open to all and, even more, that he didn't make a surprise stop down here to cheer on the thousands of OU and Athens City students who were knocking door-to-door. It's a 10 minute drive, and would have made up a bit for ignoring Southeast Ohio.
I'm not stung because it's an ego thing. Southern Ohio is very different from Northern. Southwestern Ohio is dominated by Cincinnati but Athens, despite Ohio University's presence here, is too small a city to dominate anything. As my conservative friend at work reminds me constantly, Athens is a little blue island in an ocean of red. A couple hours drive 2 weeks ago along Route 50 from Athens west to Chillicothe took me past yard after yard, farm after farm, loaded with McCain-Palin signs, flags and spangles flapping everywhere. As Governor Strickland said in Athens last month, if Kerry and Gore lost Ohio it's because of politics right here.
It's true Michelle Obama appeared at OU during primary season, and I'll bet you it was one of the highlights of her campaigning. But that's not the same as the candidate himself showing an interest in the "West Virginia part of Ohio," and maybe providing a convenient opportunity for some Republicans to check him out. His 2-day tour of Southern Ohio featured spectacular appearances in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Portsmouth on Thursday, and Chillicothe and Columbus yesterday. It's a straight shot northeast from Portsmouth to Chillicothe to Columbus---and it cut us out completely...unless we wanted to take the time off yesterday for the workday-scheduled speeches, or stagger through Friday after arriving home past midnight from 2 hours of travel, which we did (if you drive the speed limit, which we didn't).
Opening speeches started 10 minutes early at Shawnee State in Portsmouth, with the school's president giving us heartfelt welcome. I was optimistic Obama actually was going to show up on time. A few addresses from local candidates and organizers and the next thing had to be the candidate himself. On came that Obama music, which is so good it's almost worth a visit in itself---but an hour and a half later, this writer really was starting to sag. The loop reached the end with Springsteen, and then Aretha started us over again. Where the heck was he? I figured Cincinnati had to be the most important stop down here, but that rationalization took me only so far.
Finally Sherrod Brown came out to introduce Ted Strickland, who's managed in the past couple years to become a simply terrific political speaker. We were steamed up by the time Barack Obama hit the stage. My 17-year-old daughter said she started to cry at the sight of him. It's true, he's every bit as phenomenal in person as they say. THE One, THAT One, well...I don't know about going that far, but we all forgot our impatience within seconds. He apologized for being late, and immediately launched into the Georgetown diner anecdote that clearly he was making up on the spot.
Georgetown, Ohio, is a little town about a third of the way down 125 from Cincinnati to Portsmouth. I've never been on that road, but I presume it's a 2-lane. It was suppertime (gates opened in Portsmouth at 5:30 for the 7:30 appearance) and the 3 men decided to stop along the route for a bite to eat. Once inside the place, however, things got predictably complicated. Patrons and workers were astonished---as anyone would be. Photos had to be taken, especially with the waitresses and guys behind the grill and at the dishes. We're deep in Republican territory here, and they said the owner was "diehard" for the other side. They planned to enlarge the photo, frame it, and get it up on the wall as a surprise. But at that point the owner showed up, thanks to an obvious cellphone call. The dialogue that ensued between this small business guy and Barack Obama is classic. A number of papers have picked it up, including a couple I'm linking below. I guess the delay was worth it.
Obama's tour of Ohio was fortuitous in that the baddest news about the economy kept on coming this week. He gave nearly half of his 45-minute speech to it, launching immediately into those issues. His quote line about the AIG people at the $450,000 spa is making headlines. Here was the government's first chance at "oversight" and what happened? Obama told us what he would do---and that was first, demand a check of repayment to us taxpayers and second, fire them all then and there. The response from us 6000 assembled was tumultuous.
He is radical, compared to what we've heard from such candidates in the past 40 years. And he's resolute, and he's plausible. Big money's had its fun, and now it's time to pay the piper...and that's us. Barack Obama's a reminder of what many of us old-timers learned in school of what the United States is about. But it's been a long while, and many liberals believe the population has been so dumbed down in the meantime the situation may be hopeless. McCain actually brought himself to correct one of his supporters yesterday who referred to Obama as an "Arab."
When we established ourselves as a republic there was a catch. Yeah, sorta you got the right to pursue whatever happiness you want---but the Founding Fathers, especially Jefferson, warned without public education the mass becomes a mob. During the Bush years, educators have been mandated to "leave no child behind"---but "behind" is a test measurement for this administration. It's a measurement produced by private contractors, who make up and grade the tests, many of whom never have been teachers. These are test results that punish schools that don't make the grade, that withdraw funding to them...and even can shut their doors. There are school administrators across this land that think the whole plan is to privatize education...like everything else.
I'm not going to allow myself to go off on a tangent rant here, but Obama gives indication he will not continue this approach. I wish he had talked more about it, but he did promise "no more teaching to the test." That means teaching gets restored to work with your students, where they're at and what they need. I've gone pretty far out in my days in the classroom, but I've prided myself that if an administrator came in at any moment I could tell him/her exactly what I was doing and why. I've always told kids on the first day that I teach because I consider it a matter of life and death. That philosophy never has been borne out so obviously to me as the state of intelligence of this nation right now.
Barack and Michelle Obama are dignified and very smart people. But to call them elite is slander. Perhaps many in the audience at Shawnee, where Ted Strickland taught for 10 years, were educated people...but a large proportion, at least to me, did not particularly appear to be. I think what strikes everyone who goes to an Obama rally is the incredible diversity of people there. It's the opposite of a Republican convention, where everybody dresses the same---in their red, white & blue outfits and funny hats---and behaves the same, disparaging those who are "different." Forty years ago Yippies were arrested for wearing American flags as shirts and blouses. There was singing, there was dancing, there was laughter in Portsmouth, Ohio, a ravaged town at a big bend in the River. It's a town with a lot of spirit and pride. Revival's in the air there, and I hope Barack Obama caught some of it himself---and inspired even more.
Half of these links are to Ohio newspapers and their reports on the tour. The first 3 are exceptions. This is from Agence France-Presse this morning, and I think reflects well the feel of what Obama was trying to do down here~~~
The second is MSNBC's report on Obama's plan to encourage small businesses---which are hurting tremendously at present, since expanding inventory usually takes loans which are increasingly difficult to get~~~
and this is the Washington Post's story on the same thing~~~
Here's Dayton's coverage~~~
The Toledo Blade covered the Portsmouth rally~~~
as did the Columbus Dispatch~~~