are three words painted on the wall at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington. Those who came to watch the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin Vice-Presidential Debate were doing just that as they anticipated the broadcast to begin.
Shirlington is described as the new downtown of Arlington, Virginia. It's booming with new development and professionals gather there to eat, shop and go to the theatre and library. Shirlington is less than seven miles away from The White House and nestled inside the Capital Beltway. While Virginia is considered a battleground state, those who came to to watch the debate at Busboys and Poets, a place where people are encouraged to discuss issues of social justice and peace, clearly seemed to be in favor of the Obama-Biden ticket.
The restaurant was packed with viewers who gave their undivided attention to what Biden and Palin had to say. Geoff Shallal, the general manager at the Shirlington hotspot, provides a friendly atmosphere so it is like you and over 125 others are special guests in his home. And this was not a night when those in attendance had a political feud with those who sat or stood shoulder to shoulder.
The crowd cheered when the candidates came on stage and as the debate got underway the audience seemed to smile with Biden and laugh at Palin. One of the first roars occurred when Palin in her opening statement mentioned going to a kid's soccer game on Saturday to find out how people feel about the economy. There were other groans when Palin later made reference to Joe Six Pack and hockey moms across the nation. The viewers reacted to Palin as if she was that funny new sitcom star they had been watching clips of all week on the Internet and they were getting ready to hear the latest from her tonight.
Biden received cheers throughout the evening when giving his analysis of the McCain-Palin ticket. The Northern Virginian viewers ignited when Biden expressed that John McCain is out of touch. It escalated when Biden mentioned his perspective of McCain-Palin replacing a $12,000 health care plan from an employer with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company as the "Ultimate Bridge To Nowhere." Biden supporters rallied behind their candidate when he spoke about the McCain-Palin position on climate change, "If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause."
The viewers took note of each time the word "maverick" was used in the debate. They seemed annoyed when Palin noted, "As for disagreeing with John McCain and how our administration would work, what do you expect? A team of mavericks, of course we're not going to agree on 100 percent of everything." Each time Palin used the term "maverick" the crowd's overall reaction was that she needed a thesaurus, however, there was sounds of support when Biden took a closer look at McCain as a "maverick":
"Look, the maverick-- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.
He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.
He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.
He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.
He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table."
Biden also brought the house down when he exclaimed, "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history."
Even though everyone was welcomed to watch the debate at Busboys and Poets, most of those present were aware that they would probably be surrounded by supporters of Obama and Biden. Michael Sigrist who lives in the Shirlington neighborhood expressed he wanted both vice presidential candidates to do well in the debate.
Mimi Yorks of Falls Church, Virginia, is a registered independent who has been following the presidential race closely and she is a strong supporter of Obama-Biden. Yorks would have liked to have heard more women's issues discussed during the debate.The married mother of three children, including a one-year-old, is a progressive thinker who supports working mothers, yet she wonders why more is not being made of the fact that Palin is willing to be the Republican vice-presidential candidate when Palin has a son who is less than six months old. Yorks is not shy in stating, "I'm deeply offended that the McCain campaign thinks that I'm going to give him my vote because he put a woman on his ticket. Sarah Palin and I are both women and that is the ONLY thing that we have in common. We are diametrically opposite on every issue. She wants to restrict women's rights, why on earth would I vote for that?" Yorks goes on to examine the way Palin has been treated since the Governor of Alaska came on the national scene, "For years the Republicans have vilified Hillary Clinton and painted her with every brush imaginable. Yet if anyone questions Sarah Palin's qualifications and experience to be Vice President of the United States, he or she is sexist, elitist or a 'gotcha journalist'. The double standard is disgusting." Yorks expounds even further by noting, "I have a right to expect that candidates for high office be qualified and experienced. This isn't a joke or some kind of neat promotion. You need to work for my vote and you can't do that when you hide behind your campaign managers and need to be coached on what to say." Yorks goes on to add that using the standards that some have today she too could "qualify" for a top government position, "Sarah Palin has no foreign policy experience. She just got her passport last year. I think it's lovely that she can see Russia from her house. I can find Russia on a map, does that qualify me to be Secretary of State?" Yorks does not mince her words when she speaks further of McCain, "McCain represents a continuation of failed Bush policies. He can call himself a 'maverick' and he can tell the country that he's going to the White House to initiate change but it's more of the same. He can't steal Obama's campaign slogan and start using it as his own eight weeks before the election. Does he think I'm stupid?"
Arlington, Virginia Resident Molly Donegan is also registered as an independent, yet she reflects that Democrats support the issues that are of utmost concern to her. Donegan said at one time she did view McCain as a maverick but that is no longer the case, "This country cannot afford another four years of Bush policies and John McCain has failed to prove to me that he will be any different. I used to have much more respect for Senator McCain and felt that he did often speak his mind and go his own way and cross party lines on issues. I haven't seen that since he set his eyes on the office of President." Donegan feels that McCain should have chosen a much stronger candidate than Palin to be his running mate, including a number of Republican females would have been better for the ticket,"As for Ms. Palin, she simply scares me. As a woman, and an unmarried one at that, I choose the candidates that seem to be fighting for my rights, be they economic--equal pay for equal work--or about my right to keep the government out of my decisions about my body and reproductive rights and options." Donegan states there are other issues that she views as crucial " To me, education is also an extremely important issue that disproportionately effects the ability for women and minorities to change their situations. Republicans are not necessarily the champions on that effort either. For me it's simply time for a new style of diplomacy and transparency in our government and I believe the Obama-Biden ticket is the one to get us moving in that direction." Donegan believes that Obama will win Northern Virginia but that in southern Virginia who will win the most votes is still up for grabs. Donegan recounts that a driver lashed out at her mother, who now lives in southern Virginia, because she has an Obama sticker on her car.
One of those who paid close attention to the debate was Richard Sterner. He said he thought that Biden would probably win the debate but he was eager to see how Palin would hold up. He saw Biden as the clear winner. Sterner thought Biden did not make any gaffes. The Alexandria, Virginia resident believes the Commonwealth is going to be close but that it is looking better for Obama all the time. Sterner said his expectations for Palin "were pretty low, but that she did a little bit better" than he thought, but he still "gave her a low grade". He thought that Palin really had to do surprisingly well in this debate to help McCain and that did not happen.
Igor Danchenko, a Russian who is employed as a political economist in the Washington, DC metro area, was also interested in the watching the candidates. He thought the debate would be "a lot of fun" and he "expected some sort of a comedy". He anticipated Biden as a "seasoned professional" to be better on the economic issues. Danchenko pointed out he "probably should call it a tie, but given Biden's experience I think that Governor Palin won." He expected Biden to do much better. He went on to say that Biden is a professional politician but during the political campaign what matters is if you appeal to the average voter and he thinks Palin is doing "a brilliant job". Danchenko feels voters will make their decisions largely based on what they see on the debates. Danchenko stressed again that "He (Biden) has been doing this for three decades and she's (Palin) been doing this for such a large audience for a few weeks." Danchenko feels that America will be a stronger nation under Obama-Biden. He pointed out the world has changed and that The United States must be realistic, pragmatic and open to negotiations with countries they like or dislike. He said one example is when Palin referenced the "Castro Brothers", alongside with Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Danchenko states they are all different regimes and they are not connected with each other and they have to be dealt with differently and 21st century politics require flexibility, "especially from The United States--especially given the hardships of the last seven years." He said he feels that Palin did not accept the things that Henry Kissinger tried to convey to her.
Busboys and Poets' derives its name from American poet Langston Hughes who was a busboy prior to becoming a poet. Some of the servers wear shirts that feature his Dreams poem,
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Voters will have to wait until November to see whose dreams come true.
Article Written on October 2,2008
Additional info: Viewers at Busboys and Poets were about 50/50 male/female.The audience was about 55% white, 25% black, 20% international.The ages of those watching was a mixture of those in their late 20's to mid 40's.
Address: Busboys and Poets, 4251 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Virginia 22206
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