There's a definite tension at Take Back America preceding Hillary Clinton's 8:15 (or whenever she shows up) speech. Organizer Robert Borosage warms up the crowd to announce the delay and very, very politely warn against disruption. "We owe them our courteous attention," he says, referring to Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry. "Please be aware that they know this is an important crowd to be with and we want to listen and have respect for what they have to say."
Right before the speech a couple of dudes in the third row rise up and unfurl a homemade banner scrawled the message "Impeach Bush." It's more predictable, if possible, than a fat guy yelling "Whipping Post!" at the all-acoustic cover band opening for Eagles of Death Metal, but it sends photographers scurrying until a Hotel attendant grabs banner and hoofs it back to the bagel table.
One of the organizers for Draft Gore is speculating on the reception Hillary will get. "I really hope she doesn't get heckled or booed," he says. "I just plan to give her tepid applause." There are murmurs of agreement. There's no apparant upside for her in coming here.
And then, after an interminable introduction about Hillary's work on everything except the Iraq war, here she is.
There are some boos; Code Pink and other activists have moved themselves up front, so it sounds like half the room is angry, but the ratio is more like one in 50. However, the speech has been carefully written to minimize the loud anti-warriors. The long, long first section is about the meager successes of the Democrats in Congress; i.e., stopping stuff from passing. Hillary is proud to have stopped the GOP "from writing discrimination into the Constitution" and from eliminating the estate tax. Huge applause. "We've got to elect more Democrats." Huge applause - that way we'll really not eliminate the estate tax! There are promises of "health care for children" (why not lazy twentysomethings?) and flex time for moms and a minimum wage hike. There's one wonderfully discordant note when she talks about the national debt. "In the top 10 holders of American debt, guess who just broke in?" Pregnant pause. "Mexico."
Clinton spends about three minutes discussing the need to get Muslim kids out of Madrassahs, and gets no applause until she reframes the issue in terms the Villagers understand: "We're going to help send children to school." And that precedes the Iraq section, which, surprisingly, Clinton decides to linger on. As soon as she starts talking about our troops and "keeping faith with them," there are shouts of "Bring 'em home." That stops her for maybe half a second, but she continues elucidating her non-position on the war, almost feeding off the angry rump of activists. "I'm just going to say it," she says, as if she's explaining why the kids can't have ice cream for dinner. "I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended policy nor to set a date certain."
This is interrupted by shouts, but really, not that many. Exactly two activists are angry enough to stand up and flash the peace signs - seeing no one else mustering the courage to join them, they decide the smart-looking thing to do is stand that way for the rest of the damn speech.
After it finally wraps up and they don't have to compete with the sound system any more, the anti-war attendees multiply and chant "Stop the war, Hillary!" Fox News hurridly collects A-roll footage as Robert Borosage runs back to the podium to save face.
"Thank you for the... curious reception of our audience."