Was at the Sarah Palin rally at Elon University today.
It was an interesting day and I’m glad to have had the experience. But now here I sit, sunburned and sore with a throbbing headache and an aching leg.
Why? Because a McCain-Palin supporter tried to kick my ass.
I know what you’re thinking.
But no, I didn’t have it coming.
What happened, briefly, is this:
After Hank Williams Jr. had finished his set of country standards (“I Walk The Line”) Country pandering (the theme from The Dukes of Hazard) and re-arranged original hits with new lyrics (“McCain-Palin Tradition”), Sarah Palin arrived to cheers, screams and adoration that rivaled Greensboro’s Obama rally.
“GOD BLESS YOU SARAH PALIN!” one man shouted.
But not everyone was overjoyed to see her.
Weaved in amongst the crowd were a what looked like a few dozen Obama supporters – some wearing Obama shirts, others in street clothes. As Palin got into her speech they began chants of “Obama” and screamed out rebuttals to the points in her speech. This angered some in the crowd — some responding with cursing, others chanting “U.S.A.” and “NObama” to drown them out. Eventually the cops came and escorted them off of the baseball field.
Then it happened again, elsewhere in the crowd.
N&R political reporter Mark Binker and I were on different sides of the crowd – but we both got the same reaction from Palin fans as we craned our necks to see what the disturbance was.
“That’s not the story, the story’s up there on the stage!” someone yelled at Binker.
“Ain’t nothing to look at and don’t you write about it!” I was told.
To her credit: Palin stopped the speech to suggest that maybe the security shouldn’t escort the protesters off — maybe they should “stay and learn something.”
Not so very to her credit: she did not actually instruct security to let them stay.
After the speech was over I was walking around getting peoples’ reactions to it when I wandered into several clusters of sign waving Obama supporters outside the stadium area. They were surrounded by McCain-Palin folks and both sides were yelling at each other.
I sidled up to one of the Obama supporters and asked why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish.
As he was telling me a large, bearded man in full McCain-Palin campaign regalia got in his face to yell at him.
“Hey, hey,” I said. “I’m trying to interview him. Just a minute, okay?”
The man began to say something about how of course I was interviewing the Obama people when suddenly, from behind us, the sound of a pro-Obama rap song came blaring out of the windows of a dorm building. We all turned our heads to see Obama signs in the windows.
This was met with curses, screams and chants of “U.S.A” by McCain-Palin folks who crowded under the windows trying to drown it out and yell at the person playing the stereo.
It was a moment of levity in an otherwise very tense situation and so I let out a gentle chuckle and shook my head.
“Oh, you think that’s funny?!” the large bearded man said. His face was turning red. “Yeah, that’s real funny…” he said.
And then he kicked the back of my leg, buckling my right knee and sending me sprawling onto the ground.
From my position there I saw the bottoms of a number of feet almost accidentally stomping me to death as the two political camps screamed back and forth, the music continued to blare and some of the Obama crowd moved the large bearded man and his friends away. When I was helped to my feet the bearded man was walking away quickly.
For a moment I considered running the bloated, twelve-sandwich eating prick down and beating the living hell out of him…and then I remembered that I’m a reporter, how much I enjoy being gainfully employed and how hard it would be to keep my job if I got into a fistfight with a guy at a political rally.
So instead I limped off to try to find a security guard or cop.
When I did the guy was nowhere to be found.
“He’s this big fat guy with a brown beard and he’s wearing a McCain-Palin shirt and hat,” I said.
And then felt like an idiot. I was surrounded by people who fit that description.
So I simply limped to my car fuming.
On the way I passed comedian D.L. Hughley, who I’d interviewed a little earlier.
He’s got a new CNN show premiering at the end of the month and was there to tape a segment.
He was standing on the corner with a camera crew as the crowd passed him, saying: “Hey…are you Joe Sixpack? Joe? Joe Sixpack? I’m looking for Joe Sixpack. Joe? How about Joe the Plumber? Joe? I’m looking for some Joes…”
He gave me a wave and said: “Hey, Joe! Are YOU Joe Sixpack?”
I waved, shook my head and smiled.
But I was thinking: “Well, I may be tonight…”
When I get home I’ll start with one and we’ll see how it goes.