FAIRFIELD, IOWA—After a day of solid, but not memorable rhetorical flourish at three previous stops, White House hopeful Barack Obama was on fire on Tuesday night, speaking on the steps of a gazebo decked out in bunting for the Fourth of July.
Fairfield, the home of the Maharisi University of Management. This is a town where the New Agers and people who moved here to get deeper into Transcendental Meditation at the guru U. co-exist with the Hawkeye native townies.
This was the last stop of the day for the Obama presidential campaign. On this swing to southeast and central Iowa, the candidates’ motorcade included a bus of 21 reporters and a few more following him on their own.
The town park was a slice of Americana. A particular slice of the American pie where the town square is ringed by shops such as the one named “Health and Wholeness” and the “Downtown yoga” studio.
No better place than Fairfield to bring out my alter ego, Dr. Sweet, the unlicensed political psychologist. A counseling session with blogger Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic and some support from Politico blogger Ben Smith, part of the gang on the bus, gave me the courage to come out.
Here is the Dr. Sweet report.
Obama has various versions of his stump speech, tailored to time, place, people and space. Sometimes, during the five months he has been running for president, Obama is flat and people, who come expecting a stemwinder, leave a bit disappointed. They got their vegetables, were full, but they really wanted some meat.
On Tuesday, the Fairfield audience in the park on a warm summer evening were served the full course meal and dessert.
It was the complete latest version of the Obama stump delivered with inspirational passion. This full stump had every item in the Obama catalogue: sections on the smallness of our politics based on who is up and who is down, the empathy deficit, how he came to Chicago to work as a community organizer inspired by the civil rights movement, the lessons of Selma, unnamed reporter-cynics accusing Obama of hope-mongering, green technology, the Iraq War, climate change, leadership and hope.
Said Obama, “I am hopeful because I see the core decency of the American people wherever I travel. People want to do the right thing. Sometimes they get distracted. They listen to the wrong talk radio host or, you know, sometimes they get a little confused about the news coming out of the White House, but mainly they’re just busy, they’re tired, they’re not paying attention.’’
The are several reasons why Obama decided to turn up the rhetorical passion that was so obviously earlier in the day.
It was the last stop; it was a bigger crowd in a bigger space. It was nationally televised live on C-SPAN and Obama knew that. The speech was also being taped, as was everything on Tuesday, by Obama’s own crew to be used for commercials.
Though this was Obama’s 13th visit to Iowa since he started running for president, his ad makers did not have suitable Iowa tape of him they could use for spots. The sedate Tuesday meet and greets—including a stop in Mt. Pleasant, where the backdrop was classic—an old barn with a flag and green rolling acres of lawn—and Obama standing on the back of a 1978 Ford in Keokuk were keepers. Fairfield was a closer.