Tag Archive: Yale on the Trail: Battlegrounds

  1. Your ticket to the inauguration

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    WASHINGTON — Catherine Cheney, the online editor for the News, reported on the inauguration from the Newseum — and, later, the Western Ball.  Watch her video below.

  2. ‘Spooning for warmth’

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    By Rustin Fakheri

    WASHINGTON, 3:16 p.m. — People were spooning to keep warm at the National Mall. We hear the parade route is full and cold.

  3. Aboard the metro

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    By Zeke Miller

    WASHINGTON, 6:32 a.m. — There are at least 1,000 people on the Federal Center metro platform here trying to leave the station. As crowded conditions continue, metro trains are temporarily bypassing the station to the cheers of those waiting to get out of the station and misfortune of those on the train.


  4. The inaugural poet’s inspiration

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    By Martine Powers

    NEW HAVEN, 10:00 p.m. — Elizabeth Alexander ’84, Obama’s inaugural poet, is an expert on poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks, whose career spanned from the 1940s until her death in 2000, was the lionized black poetess of South Side Chicago. In 2005, Alexander edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, an anthology of Brooks’ most pivotal work, and said about Brooks: “She wrote truly great poems whose technical achievements are still guiding many poets. … She wrote poems about people she loved who lived in a place she loved and knew.”

    Now, Alexander has returned to Brooks to find inspiration for Tuesday’s inaugural poem. When she spoke to the News on Sunday, Alexander said her poem will channel Brooks’ “understanding of what it means to speak to a community.” Alexander said three Brooks poems have influenced her in particular:

    The Second Sermon on the Warpland

    For Walter Bradford


    This is the urgency: Live!

    and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.


  5. One vote

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    By Bharat Ayyar

    NEW HAVEN, 4:09 p.m. — Seven months ago, I became a United States citizen.  And today, I cast my first ballot.

    I’ll admit it: it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be.  I arrived at my designated polling location — the New Haven Public Library on Elm Street — and got in line.  There was no chatter, no fanfare.  People mostly kept to themselves; they were reading books, texting on their cellphones and staring into space.

    Where I envisioned a cascade of high-fives for every person who passed the queue on his way out, there were just glazed over eyes (okay, maybe a smile or two).  Where I envisioned a smattering of students, professors and New Haven residents belting out the national anthem, there was just muffled chatter about tomorrow’s problem set.

    No matter.  I waited my turn.  I gave them my name.  I cast my ballot.

    I was luckier than one gentleman, who was in line in front of me.  He had already tried to vote at another polling station, which referred him to the one I was at.  But when it was his turn to vote, they referred him back to the polling station he came from.  Clearly upset, he left without much of a fight.  (I wonder, did he have the patience to go back?)

    As he walked away, one of the volunteers working at booth said, quite simply: “Damn.”

    I ran into a member of last year’s Yale Daily News editorial board, as I was leaving the library.

    “Hey,” she said, expecting, I think, me to stop-and-chat about tonight’s newspaper.

    For whatever reason, I didn’t stop walking (sorry, K).  Instead, I just pumped my fist and blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: “God bless America.”

  6. Clinton delegate to young people: ‘Heal all wounds’

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    Dan Schneider (left), a Clinton delegate from California, tried to convince other delegates to rally behind Senator Barack Obama.

    By Thomas Kaplan

    DENVER, 2:32 p.m. — With pundits bloviating about the so-called split in the Democratic Party, Dan Schneider was mad as hell, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

    During a question-and-answer session during the Democratic National Committee’s youth caucus this afternoon, the 31-year-old schoolteacher from Pleasanton, Calif., took his turn at the microphone not to ask a question, but to make a plea.  To the young people in attendance, he had a simple request: Throw your support — and your vote — behind Obama.

    And it wasn’t just empty talk: Schneider, a Clinton delegate himself, planned to do exactly that.

    “I think we could bring the party together right now,” he said in an interview afterward.  “I think that would heal all wounds.” (more…)

  7. Notes from Denver, day 2

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    DENVER, 9:27 p.m. — Observations from Denver on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

    • You might be asking: “What did the Connecticut delegation do today?”  I’m wondering, too.  You see, members of the delegation had a breakfast at their hotel this morning, an event I planned to cover. This was easier said than done. First, I spent 90 minutes trying to determine what bus to take to get to the Connecticut hotel (I struggle with mass transportation). Then I got on that bus — but going in the wrong direction. Long story short, I missed the breakfast. If you really, really, really want to know what John Larson has to say these days, Jesse Hamilton of The Hartford Courant can probably fill you in
    • This brings me to another issue. Having failed miserably on my attempt to use mass transit this morning, I decided I would walk to the McCain headquarters later today for the Carly Fiorina news conference. It turns out Denver is not exactly a compact city. I literally walked miles to get there. (As a silver lining, the view of the Denver skyline in the distance — I emphasize distance — was a nice treat.)
    • Denver, it should be noted, is a beautiful city. Alexander Garvin, a professor at the School of Architecture, says as much in his Study of the City course. All those nights I spent listening to him go on and on about the 16th Street Mall now seem so worthwhile. He was dead right.
    • I don’t want to harp on this, but I just don’t understand why the Obama campaign feels it necessary to starve me to death. You may remember this was a problem between me and Barack in New Hampshire. Well, it’s no better here in Denver. And before you suggest it, I’m not paying $6 for a hot dog inside the Pepsi Center. (I can assure you I will get increasingly disgruntled about this as the week goes on and am already planning a full post reviewing the overpriced food options here in the arena.)
    • But there is some good news: Yale did not name a provost today. When I was in New Hampshire, Yale made its big announcement about how it would spend more of its endowment. So, just because of my luck, I figure the new provost will be named this week, too.
    • The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that both Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will perform at Invesco Field on Thursday night when Senator Obama accepts the nomination. I fly 1,200 miles across the country and I still can’t get away from New Jersey.
  8. Off message

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    By Thomas Kaplan

    DENVER, 7:01 p.m. — Spotted near the Colorado Convention Center, where many of the convention festivities are being held. At least this wasn’t as jarring as the several large box trucks driving around Denver today with graphic photographs plastered to their sides as part of an anti-abortion campaign. I’ll spare you those photos.

  9. Stalking famous people, day 1

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    By Thomas Kaplan

    DENVER, 6:43 p.m. — Why do people like me come to the Democratic National Convention? To pretend we are paparazzi and stalk psuedo-celebrities, of course!

    Covering the New Hampshire primary for the News in January, I had a perfect opportunity to hone this craft. Aside from the candidates themselves, my prized catches in that trip included Larry David, Arianna Huffington, Chris Matthews, Tim Robbins and Brian Williams (who famously brushed into my shoulder whilst navigating the press area at a rally for Hillary Clinton LAW ’73).

    So I was disappointed today when I failed, on all my attempts, to spot anyone of any degree of significance here in Denver. I walked around downtown for hours. I found no one. Not even John DeStefano. (Yes, it was that bleak; I would have settled for him as my celebrity sighting of the day.)

    There was some hope at one point, however. Walking downtown in Denver, I thought I heard a man introduce himself as a Democratic congressman from Kansas (they exist, apparently). Cool, right?

    Then I heard him introduce himself to a second person. I had misheard. He wasn’t a Democratic congressman from Kansas; he was an intern for a Democratic congressman from Kansas.

    The search continues.

  10. Senator Lindsey Graham stumps with McCain in South Carolina

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    By Nick Bayless/Staff Photographer

    As a kid, I loved boats. And planes. I mean, I was into this stuff. And the bigger the boats and planes, the better. I didn’t really realize it, but unlike the Power Rangers fixation, this fascination stuck with me. You can only imagine my excitement when we hopped out of the Crazy Carl cab in the parking lot of the U.S.S. Yorktown, site of the John McCain rally in Charleston, S.C. As boats go, this one’s wicked cool.


    It was also the ideal site for a rally with a theme like McCain’s. With his POW background, militant political views, and reliance on the veteran vote in South Carolina, this rally couldn’t have been staged more appropriately. With Boy Scouts on one side, a contingent of Veterans on the other, and a really, really big helicopter behind the stage, McCain was about as military as can be.


    While waiting for the crowd to assemble, I spoke to several interesting people in the audience, including a very shy elderly lady who only piped up when I mentioned to someone my excitement about being on the Yorktown. Apparently, her husband had brought the Yorktown into its dock in the ’70s, and she had opened the first gift shop at Patriot Point. She had mostly come just to see the festivities, and wasn’t terribly interested in what the speakers had to say.

    Gift Shop Lady

    I also spoke to a pair of middle-aged ladies, one of whom was a McCain supporter and the other undecided. We talked about a few issues, how they thought the race was going, why they supported the candidates, and eventually whether they planned to vote in their primary when it came around (they’re from Maryland, and so not voting in this weekend’s election). At this point, the undecided lady said she did, but couldn’t vote for McCain, as she was a registered Democrat and couldn’t support him in Maryland’s closed primary system. None of this seemed to be a big deal, and I was nodding politely along, until right after her comment about her party affiliation, her Republican friend exclaimed, “What?!” Apparently, in their 10-year friendship, the lady had never admitted to her Republican friend that she was a Democrat. I quickly apologized for “outing” her and made a journalistic excuse to scurry off into the crowd and leave them to their awkward explanations.

    Ladies who fought

    When the event got started, we heard from several dignitaries, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who spent a fairly sizable amount of time looking squeamish under McCain’s comments about him supporting Bush in 2000. During Graham’s introductory speech, an aide came to his side and whispered to him, at which point the senator introduced a last minute addition: Pete Hegseth from Vets for Freedom, an organization founded by veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


    This group’s main focus is to promote policy that supports the war, and in September 2007 came in front of Congress to beg them to support General Petraeus and the war effort. He spoke passionately about the need to elect John McCain, nodding often to the bleachers packed with veterans on the side of the stage.


    After a short break (and some overplayed patriotic tunes), McCain and his entourage arrived, referred to as the “Straight Talk Express” by the organizers. The senator came in at a snail’s pace, shaking every hand extended to him and lapping up the cheers and applause from the crowd. When he made it to the stage, the captive audience was all but silent while he spoke and burst into chants of “John McCain! John McCain!” and “Mac is back! Mac is back!” whenever he stopped to breathe. He was accompanied by his wife, Cindy and his 23-year-old daughter, Meghan, a recent Columbia graduate.

    Wife and kid

    He spoke in his typically blunt manner about issues ranging from VA health care to the war, seeming to tailor the issues he chose to his audience. He didn’t change his stance on issues, but he seemed to emphasize certain issues much more than he would when speaking in a different geographic and demographic area.

    John 2

    john 3

    john 4

    john 5

    john 6

    When he finished, he made his way over to the Boy Scouts and posed for a picture with them, then slowly made his way back out, shaking hands and posing for pictures as he went.

    john w scouts

    We managed to catch up with him as he was getting back on the Straight Talk Express, where he gave us about 4 seconds each. After watching him blow off questions from members of the press that were way more prominent than we were, we decided that we’d rather skip the long shot of throwing a question his way, hoping for a response, and went instead for the handshake. I guess politicians shake enough hands that they know how to do it right. A firm grip, a couple pumps, a smile that says “Thanks for coming,” and even though I was his focus for 4 seconds, he made those 4 seconds seem like I was the only person that had come to see him.

    Until the fifth second when he strode off, I stood there looking like I’d just been hit by the Straight Talk Express.

  11. Taking a Ride with Crazy Carl

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    By Nick Bayless/Staff Photographer

    Keeping in our apparent tradition of finding interesting characters to talk to before we even got to close the event we were heading for, Day Two started off on a wild foot. We initially started off from our hotel on foot, but after realizing the true distance to our destination (which involved Karan and I both frantically using our mobile phones to figure out where the hell we were) we decided to call for a taxi. But this way no ordinary taxi. This was “Crazy” Carl Carroll’s “69” cab — it said as much on his business card. I never quite figured out what the “69” part of the cab was all about, but the “crazy” part was no mystery.

    Crazy Carl was ex-Navy, and according to what another cab driver later told us, “something happened to him in there.” What that something was, I can only imagine, but it definitely did a number. Among the political views he shared with us were a declaration that he was going to run for president (“and when I get in there, first thing I’ll do is find the guy who invented speed bumps and execute him”) and who’d he’ll be voting for this year (“I’d like to see McCain/Thompson on the same ticket.”) When we asked his how he felt about Mike Huckabee, he responded, “Would you vote for a man whose last name is Huckabee?” He felt that McCain has the support of the military, “which really runs this country,” so that’s who he’s thrown in his lot with. Carl also admitted to being “the kind of guy who votes for the best person, but if Hillary or Obama win, I won’t be standing up next to ’em, cause some redneck’s gonna shoot ’em.”

    Carl also warned us to “watch out on June 17th … watch for something big in the military.” When we questioned this eerily prophetic declaration, he quickly asked us if we’d ever popped a pimple by squeezing both sides of it. Apparently, in the minds of military strategists, that metaphor is applicable to the Middle East, and on June 17, we’re going to launch a massive assault on Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to “pop the pimple” of Iran. And according to his “friends up in the Pentagon” we’re going to pop a pimple with 1800 bombers and 5 carrier fleets. So, the comparison of a Middle Eastern country to a facial blemish aside, here it is. I’m passing on Crazy Carl the Cabbie’s warning: Watch out on June 17, 2008. It’s gonna be big.

    We’ll see.

  12. A Day in South Carolina

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    By Nick Bayless/Staff Photographer

    Traveling to such a political hot spot as South Carolina, I expected to run into fellow reporters covering the campaign trail. However, I wasn’t really expecting to run into them in line at “Five Guys Burgers” at 7:30 a.m. in the Washington, D.C., airport.

    That’s where I met Kevin and Sreya, a reporter and cameraman working for Reuters and also traveling to South Carolina. After demolishing my burger (and after Karan similarly disposed of his breakfast burrito), we sat down with them to talk about what it was like to cover the primary season for a news service like Reuters. Because Reuters focuses mainly on an international audience, their angle is significantly different than that of the traditional American press. According to Kevin, “When the primaries started, we had to explain what a primary is. The international audience is pretty much concerned with who’s going after Bush. They don’t care about health care … they care about Iran.”

    The pair also discussed the implications of the youth vote. In reference to the primary two weeks ago, they said, “In Iowa, the youth vote definitely mattered. People are out voting who have never voted before.” We also talked about the difficulties of covering a subject that is so often changing at the last moment. For example, while covering Iowa, “The media didn’t even realize Huckabee was going to come out on top. We had to react to that.”

    Upon our arrival in Charleston, we dealt with a plethora of transportation difficulties. It was our original intention to proceed to Aiken, S.C., the site of a supposed GOP rally featuring the prominent Republican candidates. However, after two hours of failed attempts to secure transportation to the 140-mile distant Aiken, we got in touch with Abi Nicholas, a news clerk at the Charleston Post and Courier. Abi offered to let us cover the rally with them down at the newsroom, as well as interview key members of their news staff.

    When we realized that the rally in Aiken was not all it was cracked up to be, and the only candidates in attendance were individuals who were only running in South Carolina, we took Abi up on her offer and headed off to visit the Post and Courier in downtown Charleston. A 20-minute cab ride (and an unexpected stop for fuel) later, and we were in the foyer of Charleston’s most prominent newspaper. We were greeted and escorted up to the newsroom by our host, Abi, a recent graduate from the College of Charleston and former news editor of their student newspaper.

    She introduced us to Robert F. Behre, the politics editor, who talked to us about the influence of the students on the race, and on the candidates’ differing approaches to swaying that segment of the vote. According to Behre, “Ron Paul and John McCain are the only Republican candidates to even acknowledge students.” He also made mention of the striking differences between this race and the S.C. 2000 primary. Behre said, “This primary is different: In the GOP eight years ago, there were only two candidates: It was a much bigger deal. Bush’s win got him the nomination. This time, there’s not a front runner, and it’s all very up in the air. There’s not as much media, and we’re all try to cover four or more campaigns.”

    Robert Behre

    We then talked to Douglas Pardue, a former political correspondent, and current special features editor. Pardue used to enjoy politics, but was moved to special features after covering a heart-wrenching tale of a young girl’s tragic death. He believes, “People is what journalism is all about, not politicians … what makes people happy, and mad, and sick.” This didn’t stop him from commenting on Obama’s “star power” and the fact that “Iraq is a big deal to people, but when it comes down to it, people are going to vote for the economy.” He concluded his mini-speech with the prophetic statement, “Humans beings don’t exist in news coverage … only people with titles.”

    Doug Pardue

    When we were done at the Post and Courier, Abi put us in contact with the student media at the College of Charleston. There we were shown around by Sam Tyson, the editor-in-chief of the George Street Observer, the main student newspaper at the college. We saw the media building, encompassing the student radio station and television studio, as well as showing us the offices of the newspaper. We talked about the local “Bully Pulpit” series, in which presidential hopefuls are invited to come speak to crowds of 1000+ students. McCain was one of the most prominent candidates to take part in the series, and according to Tyson, it garnered him a great deal of support among the student body. Barack Obama also held a separate rally on the campus last week, drawing a large crowd of both students and townspeople. Tyson said many students are very concerned with promoting diversity on campus and they “look at the Obama candidacy as a way to be put on the map as far as being listened to.”

    College at Charleston

    While briefly touring the school, we got into a fascinating discussion with an outspoken campus security guard who had opinions on every candidate and something to say about almost every happening of the election so far. When she was in school, she said, she had been a journalism major and had enjoyed covering politics and elections then. Though she is now in her second career, she still enjoys keeping up with politics and discussing it whenever possible.


    On our way off of the campus, while saying our goodbyes to Tyson, a brightly colored Suburban pulled up to the curb outside of a FedEx/Kinko’s, and energetic man sprang out. We quickly determined his candidate affiliation from the veritable mural-sized portrait of Dr. Ron Paul on his vehicle, and his T-shirt sporting the phrase, “Who is Ron Paul?” The man was dashing into Kinko’s to make 700 copies of his homemade survey which he plans to conduct tomorrow himself, because he “doesn’t feel he can trust any other poll.” After introducing himself to us as W.A. Riley, he shared with us his story of traveling from primary to primary, spreading the word about his favorite candidate. In the last few weeks, the Philadelphia resident has been to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and plans to visit New York and New Jersey on Super Tuesday. He then proceeded into an impassioned tirade extolling the virtues of Dr. Paul, while giving us armfuls of pamphlets, papers and informational DVDs guaranteed to make us understand and agree with Paul. When he completed his spiel, he politely excused himself (after inviting us to a Paul rally Friday evening) to rush off to make his copies and prepare for his one-man protest against modern statistical methods.

    Ron Paul ‘burb

    While South Carolina certainly isn’t as charged as it has been in primaries in past years, it’s definitely an exciting time in a primary season where a win in the state could shift the deadlock that the leading candidates are now in. With only a short time remaining before the polls open, the rallies and last-ditch efforts on behalf of the Republican candidates and campaigns will certainly provide a great test of the organizations and efforts of the candidates and their supporters. But we certainly can’t discount the efforts and impacts of maverick campaigners such as Mr. Riley.

    W.A. Riley