This post concerns the third event of Wednesday, Feb. 4th, and that evening.
The drive down from Dover to Amherst is uneventful but takes a good hour. My thoughts keep drifting to the Cruz event site: Joey’s Diner. I haven’t eaten yet today, and it’s now 4 p.m. Would he mind if I ordered something while he was speaking? My other concern is that I will be late and may be unable to get in: the event officially starts at 4:20, with ‘doors open’ at 4, and how big can a diner be? Although he trails Trump substantially in New Hampshire, Senator Cruz is fresh off his Iowa caucuses victory and will likely draw well.
As I arrive I see the diner, which looks big. I also see that its substantial parking lot is full. And both sides of the street are full of parked cars, for at least two blocks, it turns out. But there just down the street from the diner is a church! With a parking lot! It’s closer to the event than where many of the people have parked along the street, and the lot is almost empty. I notice the sign that says “Parking for church events only.”
This briefly troubles me. But I look up and see the cross on the roof — this is a Christian church. And I’m here for Ted Cruz! Ted is short for Theodore (although that’s not the senator’s name) and Theodore in Greek means A Gift from God. And Cruz in Spanish is of course, cross. As in The Cross. Surely, surely this is a message that it is OK for me to park here for this purpose. Thank you.
Inside the door I see it’s crowded and I tell the lady I have rsvp’d online for the event. She says that’s great but you don’t have to, you can come anyway. I do get a nice little Cruz sticker to go with my H sticker, my marcorubio sticker, and my Jeb! sticker.
Joey’s Diner is huge, as diners go. It is square rather than trailer-shaped, with a long counter and stools along one side, and tables and booths everywhere else. And everything is mirrored: walls, columns, parts of the ceiling. What’s not mirrored, or windows, is red or silver. It’s a snazzy place. And it is absolutely packed. Every inch that’s not needed for waiters to walk through — they’ve still been serving, at least up til recently, as I can see the empty plates and cups on the tables — is jammed with people sitting, standing, leaning. I squeeze into a spot near the end of the counter. The man is not here yet but former Senator Bob Smith, of NH, is speaking as warmup. The good news is I’m pretty near him, across a low divider separating the counter area from the seating area which is up two steps; the bad news is he’s facing the seating area, with his back to me. No matter; there isn’t anyplace else to go.
I start talking with a little group: there’s a tall blond kid who turns out to be from Norway and is doing what I’m doing, except more so as next week he’ll go to South Carolina for the next primary, and beyond. There’s a short young black man who is undecided but leans toward Rubio. There’s a woman in her 40s who leans to Cruz and is confounded by Trump’s followers. And there’s a middle aged white guy who is solidly for Cruz.
We are standing near a corner door that turns out to be Cruz’s entry way. Photographers and videographers start gathering there, and soon after, here he is, in dark blue zipper sweater, dark gray slacks, dark shiny hair. He’s not particularly tall, about my height, and up close has a boyish look.
He starts in at the mike, and someone at a table to my right yells ‘we can’t hear you.’ Instead of talking louder Cruz stops his speech, goes over to where some controls are (I can’t see them) and fiddles a bit; an aide comes over and does the same; Cruz tests, tests again, and we’re good to go, with the sound now louder and clear.
He looks happy. The pundits were all wrong in Iowa! Big cheer. He talks about growth, have to have it to have any chance of reducing the deficit. Jobs. Get regulators off the backs of small business. Repeal Obamacare – premiums are going through the roof. A simple flat tax; just two deductions, mortgages and charitable contributions. Then abolish the IRS. Very big cheer. Defend our constitutional rights. Obama suing the Little Sisters of the Poor to compel them to provide their employees abortion-inducing contraception. “If you’re litigating against nuns, you’ve probably done something wrong.” Defend the Second Amendment. Its purpose wasn’t deer hunting or skeet shooting – though those are fun – it was to let you defend your home.
Rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive order. Protect the Tenth Amendment. Defend the borders and end sanctuary cities. Federal government’s powers are limited; its first role is to keep the country safe. But it has no role in education, that needs to be state and local. Repeal Common Core.
Tear up the Iran agreement. Stand with Israel.
Today is like the late 1970s under Carter; same failing economic policies, same feckless foreign policies. “But I’m so optimistic because we know how that story came out. It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan.”
Supports term limits. For justices of the Supreme Court too. (I was following along with the happy crowd until that last point.)
Then lots of questions. No roving crowd mikes, so Cruz repeated the questions so we could hear. Immigration. Bio-fuel subsidies. (Point of honor to Cruz: opposing such subsidies in Iowa, where they are holy, and still winning there is impressive.) Minimum wage. Military strength. How to pay for it what needs to be done? Only growth will work, he said. If you taxed all the millionaires at 100% it wouldn’t be enough without growth. In the Reagan years, all income levels went up. GDP growth in ’84 was 7.2%. Average since WWII is 3% but average in the Obama years less than 2%. (These are my recollections of what he said; don’t hold me or him to my numbers, but you get the idea.) He projects confidence and certainty. Anyone who argues in front of the Supreme Court is good on his feet, and he is. If only his lips and his hair didn’t remind me of George Wallace. Probably an unfair comment.
He appeals for our votes. If everyone here calls ten friends, family, co-workers, etc. Then the crush of handshakers and photo ops. I do not enter the mob but manage to ask a waitress for a Coke in a to-go cup. I even think ahead enough to use the men’s room. And outside, it has stopped raining!
On the drive back, with no urgency of a next event, I’m congratulating myself on a productive day. Then suddenly I’m blind — not really blind because I can see objects in the car, but not outside. Is the windshield covered? Have my headlights stopped working? Then it clears. I’ve driven through a patch of fog. And here comes another one; nothing but gray brightness, can’t even see the lines on the road. This comes and goes for the next ten minutes and is scary. I slow down in them, but not too much because I don’t want whoever is behind me to hit me.
Back in the welcome lights of Manchester I drop off my stuff at the palace, change to slightly spiffier garb, and head out on foot for downtown. I chose my lodging for its location; downtown is 15 minutes’ walk.
The bar at the Radisson is busy. Wide range of ages, couples and little groups, some solos like me. In any other bar you’d hear all kind of talk: sports, gossip, music, movies, daters sharing deep thoughts, jokes, pickup attempts. Here, it’s all politics. Every couple or group I overhear is talking politics, and from a professional perspective, not arguing over whose guy is better, but trading business talk — it’s about scheduling, advance men, press coverage, funding, endorsements, staff gossip. I don’t know any of these people, but they don’t know me either – I could be somebody! – and I feel cool. And someone I do recognize walks in; it’s Al Hunt. Sans Judy Woodruff, but with some non-bimbo on his arm, some 50-something short woman with glasses and what appears to be interesting conversation.
Most people are drinking beer but as an important journalist I feel a responsibility to have a drink. My gin and tonic is a lot stronger than the ones I make at home. And I still haven’t eaten; it’s now about 9 o’clock. Accordingly I exercise self-restraint and make the sensible decision to ask the bartendress to make the second one a little lighter.
I watch the interviews on the tv above the bar – some political talking heads of course. Then I look down the room and see the same interview being conducted about 30 feet from me. I see the people in profile, bathed in bright light. It’s odd to look up at the tv again; now I’m trying to see if I can see myself in the background.
Between interviews the station runs news items. As usual at bars, the sound is off but the words are streamed on text at the foot of the screen, presumably typed by some unseen minion in real time. One item shows Pres. Obama at a mosque, giving a speech. I gather he’s saying something about the importance of pluralism, but the text on the screen says “puerilism.” If that’s not a word, it should be, and it’s perfect. We are grateful for these small happenstances.
I walk over to the Red Arrow Diner and complete my evening with a chocolate frappe, excellent iceberg wedge salad, and a reuben sandwich with fries. If you’re going to eat just once a day, have whatever you want.