NEW YORK -- I'm still reeling from Friday night. I attended the first presidential debate night which was hosted by the Young Republicans at one of the oldest bastions of Republican support for the McCain/Palin ticket in New York City. The Metropolitan Republican Club located in the heart of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was originally founded in 1902 during the days of President Theodore Roosevelt and established in its current location on 83rd Street in 1930.
Robert Morgan, The current president of the Republican Club started the proceedings with introductions and a reminder to the attendees to 'keep it down' during the debate so that both candidates could be heard but that request didn't even last through his comments which ended with announcements that could be barely heard about other upcoming McCain events in the city including recruitment blitzes at local street fairs that occur in the city throughout the summer. It was a modest muster in comparison to the number in the Obama campaign volunteer rolls throughout the city.
As a field organizer for the Obama campaign, I knew that the evening would test my endurance on multiple levels, still I went in with a relatively open mind, a smidge of reckless feline curiosity and just the right dash of the morose to assure, if nothing else, a lively evening. And for panache, I decided to adopt an alter ego for protection against the red horde. Though I considered, Galilee O'Jesus (which would have certainly raised some suspicion I admit), I instead chose something softer, Gabrielle Peters, in honor of my other personal hero human rights activist, Peter Gabriel as my protective talisman.
And then I was in! There was not even a raised eyebrow from the ladies at the check-in table. I had done it, I had shocked the monkey. I made my way around the room. The event was modestly attended with roughly 100 McCain supporters crowding into the main room on the first floor with a large flat screen television tuned to FOX (shocker!), on one end of the room and the open bar and pizza station on the opposite end. A New York 1 news crew made the rounds interviewing but no other local coverage were in attendance. One supporter I spoke with had gone over to the Republican ticket after previously being a Clinton supporter. When I asked her why she had gone over to McCain she cited the Tony Rezko corruption scandal. I countered with the fact that Rezko also co-hosted a 3.8 million dollar fundraiser at the White House for George Bush but that didn't seem to matter to her reasoning and she continued down the list of smears now well documented as being false.
By that time, the debate was already well underway and I turned my attention to the coverage. McCain's angry demeanor grew more and more intense and you might think that I'm kidding but I found it was extremely jarring and even chilling to hear the crowd around me cheer each time McCain interrupted Senator Obama again and again. I gripped my bag firmly feeling utterly disconnected alone in a sea of sheep and stifled the urge to heckle. I sat there wishing that the senator would step in just as forcefully and verbally disarm McCain's dated rhetoric and now obvious disdain in refusing to even look at Senator Obama. Was he angry at Obama? Was he angry that his week of theatrics leading up the debate had failed miserably? I crossed my fingers but no vociferous volley came back and only after a few days to reflect do I resign myself to the idea that Senator Obama did the right thing. Indeed, as many of the pundits have already reported, Senator Obama maintained his composure, stood his ground and behaved the President I wished for but lost in 2000.