Updated below with video of angry Clinton supporter being escorted from the building.
When is a Reuben sandwich not just a Reuben sandwich? When one eats it amidst a denizen of rabidly committed, frequently vitriolic, and unapologetically devoted Hillary Clinton supporters.
The scene at Harry's Pub in the Marriott Hotel, downstairs from the site of the Rules and Bylaws Committee hearing, was emblematic of the double-edged sword that has become the Democratic primary. One the one hand was the political passion: the willingness to stand in solidarity over the idea of counting the votes in Michigan and Florida, even if such a protest was scheduled on a Saturday under torrential rain.
On the other hand were the battered emotions: the ardent vows to not support Sen. Barack Obama under any circumstances, the insistence that every insidious rumor concerning the Illinois Democrat was grounded in fact, the belief that the party itself had conspired in an effort to tear down the Clintons.
With half a dozen flat screen televisions turned to CNN, it was not difficult to ascertain just where the political and emotional center of the crowd stood. A table of three women did not deal in discretion. A sampling of their punditry:
"[Obama] is a cult. His campaign is an anti-woman cult."
"I will actively campaign against him."
"You know who is backing him is George Soros. It'll be George Soros, not Obama, who is running the country."
"South Dakota is totally rigged for Obama because of Tom Daschle. Obama's going to win South Dakota because he's buying it and rigging it."
"[Obama] is a socialist! You know what the Nazi Party was before it was the Nazi Party? It was the Socialist Party."
It was not all that different from the mood outside, where signs read, "At least slaves were counted as 3/5ths a Citizen," and some pamphlets detailed Obama's supposed dealings in drugs and gay sex. The latter being handed out by Larry Sinclair, the youtube opportunist who has claimed to have had an affair with the Senator.
"Would you rather have a president who had an affair [Bill Clinton] or one who was a murderer [Obama]?" Eve Fairbanks, a reporter with The New Republic, was asked by one protester.
Back in Harry's, passions did not ebb. Amidst the chatter came raucous cheers for any Clinton surrogate whose face popped up on the television screen. They were countered by derisive boos when CNN cut to a clip of DNC Chairman Howard Dean. It didn't matter what he said. You couldn't hear it over the crowd's hissing.
I approached a group of Clinton supporters sitting at the bar to pinpoint, exactly, the foundation of their emotions. Almost unanimously they agreed that if Florida and Michigan weren't seated in their entirety, they would never vote for Obama.
As women, were they comfortable with a candidate like John McCain who could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade?
"Oh don't pull that argument," said Valerie Duhaime of Florida. "Obama did not support a filibuster of [Supreme Court Justice Samuel] Alito and he was for [Chief Justice] John Roberts before he was against him."
Within the pub's confines, Obama was not the only persona non grata. The media, too, occupied a dark place in the crowd's heart. The group at the bar went through a litany of websites that they no longer read -- including the Huffington Post. "I only watch the BBC," said Duhaime. "We are outsourcing the fourth estate."
Shortly after revealing my publication, I was turned away. No worries, my lunch, a Reuben sandwich, had arrived. I pulled up my chair to the table and sat down to eat. Minutes later a chant began around me.
"HuffPost sucks! HuffPost sucks!" and later, "Fox News, fair and balanced! Fox News, fair and balanced!"
Update: As caught by Firedoglake, late in the day an angry Clinton supporter was escorted from the building after she went on a tirade blasting Barack Obama, a racial double standard, and the Democratic Party. "I'm no second class citizen," she declares, "and god damn the Democrats."