Clinton at AFSCME in DSM

It’s 10 ’til seven on a Friday night.  I’m standing in the courtyard of the Holiday Inn across from the Des Moines International Airport at a bar — but the bar is not in use.  I’m looking down on an area covered by green (yes, it’s fake grass turf). dotted by tables covered in red-checkered tablecloths.  AFSCME members are seated around those tables, chowing down on dinner.  In a few moments, we’re told, New York Senator Hillary Clinton will speak to this 15th biennial state convention of AFSCME Council 61.  John Edwards was here yesterday; Bill Richardson was here earlier today; Barack Obama and Chris Dodd are due here tomorrow.

"You shook me all night long," is the phrase blaring out of the mouths of the two band members singing into microphones on the far end of the room.  They’ve encouraged the crowd to sing along with other standards, but according to Dave Price of WHO-TV it’s not been a successful effort because one rarely sings and eats at the same time.  At least not in polite company. 

It looks like pork chops, potatoes, salad, rolls and cake were on tonight’s buffet-style menu.  As "Honky Tonk Girl" blares out of the speakers, I count about 250 people seated.  There’s also a passel of people milling about.  I don’t recall "Honky Tonk Girl" being one of the Clinton campaign’s potential theme songs.  I don’t believe this is a band which includes Celine Dion standards in its repertoire. 

AFSCME International president Gerry McEntee is introducing Clinton. (An AFSCME person from Washington, D.C. called on Monday to say it wasn’t him, it was AFSCME’s Iowa president who was introducing Clinton. You can’t tell it from the recording because the sound guy was playing "Eye of the Tiger" — with reverb — over and under whomever was introducing Clinton.  The entire broadcast corps at the event was pleading with the audio guy to get the audio straightened out so we’d have clean audio of Clinton, but it took all of that introduction to get it done.  Go listen to the recording here to understand how bad it was.)  "She has a 98 percent AFSCME voting record," he says.  The crowd applauds.  "What’s Cheney’s voting record?  Or, never mind," he continues. The intro is short.  Now, Celine Dion IS singing Clinton’s campaign theme song (it’s a recording; Celine is not here).

"I am delighted to be here with all of you tonight and I want to thank Danny and his entire team.  I know how hard Danny and Marcia work to make an event like this happen," Clinton began, addressing the Iowa leadership of AFSCME.

"I am so pleased to be here with Gerald McEntee….Remember that old advertising? When somebody talks, everybody listens.  Well, when Gerry talks, people listen…I appreciate his friendship and his leadership…When I said nice things about him he was leading the applause.  There’s nothing shy or retiring about Gerry McAtee," Clinton said.  Observers saw McEntee himself wave his hand and pump his fist "joyfully" at this.

For those scoring at home, McEntee & AFCME endorsed Howard Dean in 2004.

Next, she recognizes Tom & Christie Vilsack, who are there.  The crowd slowly gets to its feet to applaud, all but the two tables in front of the press area….they’re eating and one woman is in the midst of buttering, not a good moment for applause for her.

"It’s not the time or occasion for some long, formal speech," Clinton began.  "…We have a lot of work to do in this country and I believe that America is ready for change and we are ready to turn the page of George Bush and Dick Cheney….As soon as they leave and as soon as I’m there, we’re going to get back on the right track in America again."

"We’re going to start treating people who do the work that makes America work with respect and dignity again," she continued.

"We need to be working together to set the stage and do the hard work and people say to me all the time, well, do you thinkAmerica’s days are behind us.  Are you kidding?"  (It’s the future, she said in so many words)..

Clinton then started talking about policy:  "Here’s what I hope we can do together…"

health care for every single man, woman and child;

job creation, including ‘green collar’ jobs;


government reform ("Let’s quit outsourcing our government to all of these contract employees," Clinton said.  "I want to cut 500,000 of these employees…I am tired of sending off important functions of the United States government to people who don’t perform.  They don’t perform in Iraq, they didn’t perform in Katrina.");

reform union rules ("We have a DOL that has tried to undermine and oppose labor at every turn," Clinton said. "…We have a NLRB that won’t ever make a decision….There is so much to be done to get back to supporting the right to organize…I believe that labor unions are essential to continuing and growing the middle class." -the crowd applauded that);

a fair tax system ("We need more middle class tax cuts….We have to make it more possible for middle class families again to have a rising standard of income…We’re not keeping up and everybody knows that.").

She made the "women are good at cleaning" reference again.  "Our country is better than what we’ve had (in Bush/Cheney)….an experiment in extremism.  It hasn’t worked here at home and it hasn’t worked around the world," Clinton said. 

The crowd applauded her when she said it was time to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Now, highlighting her response to Bush Administration criticism:

‘You may have read that I asked the Pentagon if they are beginning to plan for us to be able to redeploy our troops because I’d been hearing they refused to do that.  They don’t want to plan for it because the White House doesn’t want to admit that they have to plan for it.  Well, as any of you who have served our country know, if we begin to move troops and equipment, that’s complicated and has to be done in a careful, orderly way and it takes planning so I asked them to come and give us a briefing that will tell us what they were doing to get ready and I got a letter back from one of (the) Cheney acoliyes at the Pentagon saying: ‘How dare you ask these questions.  You’re giving aide and comfort to the enemy," Clinton said.

The crowd booed.

"You know what, they tried that for a couple of years, didn’t they?  But that’s over now.  No one, no one who stands against this war and wants to protect our troops has anything to answer to anybody in the administration and they have no right to impugn the patriotism of anyone who does," Clinton said. 

The crowd applauded.

Next, she talked about pension reform and privatizing Social Security. 

Closes with her experience, mentions "the support of my husband" as helping her repair the damage she said has been done around the world.  "We know that any problem we deal with around the world…we’ve got to work with people….We need a govt that reflects what is best about our country."

She’s telling the Madeline Albright story she often closes speeches with — about Czech republic and people who kept WWII-era American flags under communist rule.  "We are a good and great nation…We can renew the American dream right here at home…that is what I offer and I hope you will help me make it come to pass."

The end.  About 20 minutes from start to finish.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story — with an audio link at the bottom if you want to listen to the speech.

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. Nice job of showing your condescension for the people of AFSCME for eating food. You must be soooo above that. And nice job checking your facts, too. In journalism school they teach you to check facts, or at least pay attention when you hear people speak. Maybe there’s a night course available for you!
    That was Dan Homan from Iowa who introduced Hillary Clinton not Gerry McEntee (notice correct spelling). Gerry McEntee is the AFSCME Union President who Clinton referred to in her speech. I know it would have been difficult and time consuming for you to type in google “AFSCME president” to get the correct spelling, so I understand why you got the facts wrong.
    Nice, thorough reporting, slick.

  2. correction says

    Political reporting is tough enough without the thug-o-rama blog trolls attempting to boost their union and candidate with insults. Oops, you aren’t perfect, most people think that’s normal. Corrections are appropriate but more effective sans the ‘I’m-pissed-and-want-you-to-know-it’ tone. What does it say about Hillary and her Iowa union fans?