Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner

Good afternoon.  I’m coming to you from the fourth floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids.  This is the press file room, where reporters have access to a high-speed connection.  Unfortunately, in the (not so) Grand Ballroom where the presidential candidates will be speaking this evening there is no high-speed access.  So, this will be my only post this evening, until after all is said and done.

The "Fab Five" from Bravo or any of the decorators from HGTV would have a coronary if they walked in the ballroom right now.  The walls are plastered with campaign signs.  A few were handpainted, but most are mass produced signs covering most of the wall surface and even the front of the bar in the back of the room.  The signs line the corridor into the hallway as well.  The Richardson campaign has made posters quoting bloggers who’ve said nice things about the New Mexico Governor.

The sign-war madness has spilled out onto the street in front of the hotel.  The Dodd camp has a school bus parked across the street with Dodd signs and chanting Dodd supporters gathered around it.  The Clinton camp has a flatbed truck with giant (I’d say six-foot tall) letters spelling out the candidate’s first name.  HRC backers have jumped up on top of the flatbed to recite their cheers. Hillary seems a long name to spell letter by letter.

The John Edwards campaign has a very tall Edwards sign stretched vertically in a parking lot across the street — rivaling the Edwards sign that we saw in a field along I-380 as we drove into Cedar Rapids.  The Edwards camp has its chanters, too.  "Tomorrow Begins Today" and "Health Care for All" are added as variety to the "John John John" which sounds a lot like "Dodd Dodd Dodd" when both sides are screaming at the same time.

The circus began in the early afternoon and the campaigns were camped out at 2:30 p.m. when we (Charlotte Eby of the Lee Newspapers, AP photographer Charlie Neibergall and I) rolled into town.  A few blocks away from the hotel there is a Cedar Rapids PrideFest going on in a downtown Cedar Rapids park.  A woman was singing a popular rap song with an accoustic guitar when we walked by. 

"Water goes above the knife," said the head waiter to his crew as the staff started putting out food on the tables at 4:30 p.m.  This was at the same time a certain Des Moines Register columnist (ok, it was Yepsen) was duct taping an electrical cord to the faded carpeting in the Grand Ballroom so reporters in the second row table could get power to their laptops. 

The Clinton camp has passed out "press games" to the media types. There’s a crossword and one of those find-the-word in the midst of a jumble of letters puzzlers.  The Richardson camp has passed out a text of his speech.  The Edwards camp tells us the candidate will go to his people across the street (the ones involved in the sign/chant war) and lead them across the street, where he’ll do an interview with CNN.  (It’s Lou Dobbs face I see on the screen right now on the TV set up in the press file so it hasn’t happened yet.)

So, the "event" is to start at 5:30 p.m.  The Iowa Democratic Party chairman will speak first.  After the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and invocation, the speakers will appear in the following order (so you can follow along at home on C-SPAN) Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chris Dodd, former Governor Bob Fulton & people honoring him, Senator Hillary Clinton, former gubernatorial candidate Roxanne Conlin & people honoring her, former Senator John Edwards, former gubernatorial candidate & IDP chair Ed Campbell & people honoring him, Governor Bill Richardson, a bunch of people who’re getting awards & the people who’re talking about those people, Senator Joe Biden, Iowa First Lady Mari Culver and some others talking about more award winners, then Congressman Dave Loebsack.

One person (you know who you are) has called this the "Ball of Lame" dinner.  Regardless of how you feel about the event, it’s going to happen and it’s going to be a long time before it’s over.  And unfortunately the press area in the ballroom is between the seating area for the guests who’ve paid between $50 and $500 each to be here — and the bar where the Democrats can buy themselves drinks. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.