Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some Real (non-political) Entertainment

I'm off to see Eddie Izzard at Boston's Orpheum Theater tonight, and after being swept up in Izzard's new show on FX, The Riches, the past few months I'm excited to see him in the role he is famous for?a standup comedian.

World War II, Eddie Izzard style:

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Crazy Day: Indiana, the Reverend, and Elizabeth Edwards Nailing It

[segment 2]

1) Next week's Indiana Democratic Primary could be a nail-biter

In a contest where day to day polling tells us nothing more than that nobody knows anything, the Indiana Primary has the potential to come down to the wire. According to a new poll released today, Senator Clinton can take comfort in a 15% advantage over Obama among women, but Obama is making inroads among Northern Indiana residents, many of whom have been hit hard by the current economic slowdown (voters that have traditionally sided with Clinton).

Senator Evan Bayh's Central Indiana origins are boosting Clinton over Obama in the region by 13% in the latest polling, but Clinton's advantage is even greater in Southern Indiana where she is currently polling 32% ahead of Obama.

Notable: If Clinton can win the southern counties of Indiana by a wide margin she should be almost sure of a victory in neighboring Kentucky, a state that holds its Democratic primary on May 20th and in which Hillary Clinton is currently polling over 30% ahead of Barack Obama.

2) Reverend Wright is back

Reverend Wright appeared all over television on Saturday, Sunday, and today. Team Obama can't be pleased, especially when results from exit polls in Pennsylvania showed that voters deciding in the last weeks of the campaign tipped dramatically towards Senator Clinton.

Notable: CNN ran a story today on "The Black Church in America," and, iust as Obama has not been able to put the Reverend Wright issue away in a timely fashion, it concluded the segment by acknowledging that the words of Wright and similar preachers around the country were not shared by most "average white voters." I happen to think Obama DOES understand the issues facing "average voters" white or black, but with the "Wright-bone" connected to the "Obama-bone," Senator Obama will have to continue to fight in the coming weeks against the perception that he is out of touch with voters.

3) Americans forget about healthcare and Elizabeth Edwards puts herself out there

Considered by 27% of New Hampshire Primary voters to be the most important issue in America this past January, only 14% of voters in the Pennsylvania primary put healthcare as their greatest concern. Economic worries, fueled by rising gas prices (bad word choice), a topsy-turvy stock market, and the increasing cost of food and crops, have now become the most important issue for voters. All this comes as Elizabeth Edwards ran a beautifully-scathing piece in the New York Times lamenting the media's neglect in covering the important issues and candidates of the campaign so far, namely candidates like Biden and Dodd and the issue of healthcare in America. (see

Noteworthy: From Elizabeth Edwards' NYTimes piece:
"Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s healthcare plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.

And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say."

I said the same thing back in October.... (read it HERE)

Back in Business

I'm back here in Boston after spending four of the past seven days on the road in New York City and Philadelphia.

After letting the day-to-day news of the campaign trail pass me by for a little while, I couldn't help but notice the televisions on the Massachusetts Turnpike playing CNN footage of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright speaking last night; even when you try to escape the worst parts of the media coverage of this election, it's nearly impossible to do so.

I will try to have a nice long write-up of the Philadelphia primary by day's end, and you can count on a very exciting week ahead on this blog!

It's good to be back.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Selected Shots

Still only half-way through my photos from Hillary's victory event in Philadelphia from are a few I like:

(All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary in Philadelphia

It's too late for me to stay up and edit photos. I've got a long drive back home tomorrow beginning at 6:00 AM, so it might take even longer for me to put together a slideshow with photos from Hillary Clinton's celebration tonight in Philadelphia.

Enjoy the one photo I've had time to upload!

(Photo credit: Luke N. Vargas. 2008. All Rights Reserved)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What Photographers Talk About

The two guys next to me--I believe one works for the Wall St. Journal and the other for the Washington Post--are covering a wide range of topics. These events are media circuses but act as great opportunities for long-lost photography buddies working around the country to catch up with each other.

The topics of conversation at the moment are:

-What it's like photographing the troops in Iraq (they've both been there)

-How unfortunate it is that every once grand newspaper is now owned by a big media corporation

-The joys of "independent photojournalism projects"...a.k.a. sleeping most of the day and taking a few neat shots in the afternoon.

-How campaign locations have become televison sets (the ballroom here tonight will have more press than supporters, of which there will be around 750 I hear).

-That it's ridiculous these campaigns are letting inexperienced photographers/high school students into these events as press (oops!).

More from Hillary HQ later.

Hungry and Uncomfortable in the Grand Ballroom

The upside: front and center 30 ft from the podium. Two projectors are casting faded pictures of CNN live over the two balconies here.

I am confident that I'm one of the only non-mainstream photographer here except for a sophomore working for the University of Pennsylvania's daily paper.

Exit polls are beginning to come in and are showing Clinton strong among those deciding their candidate in the last 10 days, an important indicator of who has the momentum tonight. I would equate tonight to the New Hampshire primary night event for Senator Clinton except that the ballroom here is empty apart from the press. I hear doors will open for the small number of supporters that will fit in here at 8:30....still a ways away....

The Streets of Philadelphia

I am safe and sound (and tired, but that's typical on Primary nights) in Philadelphia at last.

A block and a half from my hotel is a gathering of around one or two hundred Clinton and Obama supporters in front of Philadelphia's marvelous City Hall. Driving past the crowd earlier on the way to the hotel horns were honking and the city police had closed down the left lane of traffic to keep the crowd from overflowing into the street.

Updates coming, I'm in the lobby now preparing to head out and explore the city.

As far as photos, I will try to add photos to everything I'm publishing from my phone (such as this post) around 7 pm or after tonight's festivities wind down.

Communication, Communication, Communication

After packing my camera and audio recording equipment, driving to New York yesterday, booking hotel rooms in New York and New Jersey, and a number of previous contacts with the Clinton campaign's PA press office, I found out at 11:00 PM last night that my request for press credentials for Senator Clinton's election night event in Philadelphia was being rejected.

I understand the difficulties that campaign press offices deal with when managing events like this--the ballroom at the Hyatt Philadelphia holds only 1,200 people and the room will undoubtedly be packed by day's end, but I've come too far and followed the Clinton campaign around too much--from New Hampshire, Iowa, and recently Indiana--to bow out now.

A giant inconvenience? Yes, especially because an email filter in the PA press office delayed my credential request until 45 minutes after the deadline, but I've been in and survived trickier situations than this.

Off to downtown Philadelphia — will be there in 3 hours!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Big Day Ahead in Pennsylvania

The way I see it, the election day story-lines for the Pennsylvania primary have already been written.

Eight polls attempting to put a finger on the forces at work in tomorrow's primary were released today. Seven of the eight polls put Hillary Clinton ahead of Barack Obama, and the one outlier only had Obama winning by 3%.

The official schedules of Clinton and Obama tomorrow evening reveal what might be the two campaigns' expectations. While Obama is holding a rally in a 13,000 seat stadium in Indiana with "heartland" rocker John Mellencamp, Senator Clinton is holding an "Election Night Celebration" at the Park Hyatt in downtown Philadelphia, an event I will be attending.

Is it wise to read into schedules like this and assume that the Obama campaign doesn't think the Senator will win tomorrow? Not entirely, but at the same time I can predict with 100% certainty that if Obama wins tomorrow he'll open his remarks with, "I wanted to celebrate this tremendous occasion with my friends here in the state of Indiana."

Why? Because the 2008 campaign is raging forward at breakneck pace and, from a tactical standpoint it makes no sense for Obama to stick around in Pennsylvania once the voting ends. There just isn't enough time this campaign season to wait around an extra day after the polls close...but some people still appreciate those who stick around anyway, whether it's Clinton or Obama.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The New York Times Proves its Worth

For a while The Daily Show seemed like the only program able to pull together the footage, the interviews, and the documents with incredible editorial precision to prove a point or expose a story. When so many news organizations simply latch onto day-to-day developments, the news world has been lacking a real player with the ability to comb archives, access private documents, and present a story that truly informs us of something we ought to know.

The New York Times' "How the Pentagon Spread Its Message" is a well-researched look into the inner-workings of the Pentagon's public relations operation and shows how the Defense Department corralled retired generals into launching a media blitz against anti-war and anti-Rumsfeld generals since before 2006.

As an interactive online investigation, the Times brilliantly combines audio, video, text, and a fantastic archive of Pentagon documents.

Instead of leaving me depressed about the day's events or upbeat about fluffy content, the Times' piece left me feeling informed, curious, and skeptical of the media and the Pentagon; it reminded me to be more discerning about information I absorb and where it comes from.

Explore the New York Times special investigation HERE.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Word for Word: Henry R. Irving

[This is the first in a series of interviews I will be conducting and publishing on this blog. These interviews will collectively be titled "Word for Word"]

It’s tough being a Republican in Massachusetts, let alone Cambridge. If you’re lucky enough to survive the liberal messages broadcasted by the city’s universities and students, the state legislature is certainly stacked against you; 141 of 160 seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives are Democratic and there are few, if any, seats that even the strongest Republican candidates could hope to pick up.

Despite the challenge, Henry R. Irving has taken the position as head of the Cambridge Republican City Committee and has a plan for reestablishing the Republican brand name in Cambridge. In analyzing the current state of the City Committee in Cambridge Irving wrote in a recent memo:

“It [the Committee] is marginalized both by “Bush Hate,” however thoughtlessly, and by the record of the late Republican Congress, which undermined the GOP brand. The poor management and mean-spiritedness of the recent Healey campaign, compared to the upbeat brilliance of the Patrick campaign, make Republican efforts seem puny. Does Cambridge know the CRCC exists?”

I spoke with Mr. Irving last week and our conversation is transcribed below:


Cambridge is considered one of the most liberal cities in Massachusetts—does that limit or increase the importance of the Republican City Committee in Cambridge compared with other local Republican committees around the US? Are you a more vital group because of Cambridge's liberalism?

When I was going door-to-door in my 2006 State Rep campaign I was confronted with a contradiction. On one hand, the people I talked to were overwhelming Democratic and would not have voted for me if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, they were very concerned about how the Commonwealth was becoming a one-party state. Most said they very much appreciated that I was running.

Yes, Cambridge’s identity as such a liberal city increases the importance of the local GOP committee. Voters need balance. Providing voters with clear alternatives on key policy issues is the important thing and the CRCC can fill that role in Cambridge.

But please note what my team recognized as we worked through a marketing plan. The Republican Party can’t blame anything but itself for its weak position in Cambridge. It had a well-established brand name and it let it go. Rebuilding the brand is now our stimulating and vital challenge.

What goes into choosing which candidate the Committee will select to run in Cambridge on a given election year? Are you approaching the 2008 election differently than previous election years?

Good questions. I’ll answer the second first. We know that rebuilding the GOP brand in Cambridge is a long-term project. We won’t accomplish it by 4 November 2008. So I’d have to say we aren’t really “approaching” the 2008 election because achieving our objectives isn’t linked to it.

That leads into the first. Neither are we ready to choose candidates nor do we have any to choose from. When we are ready, we will look for candidates who hold conservative principles dearly. There are too many issues to consider and the idea of having “litmus test” positions on issues is ridiculous. Principles are our measuring stick. Note that the successful MA Republicans of the past – Messrs. Brooke, Saltonstall, and Sargent, for example – upheld conservative principles while taking progressive action on issues. (That’s “small p” progressive, as in making things easier so individuals can progress, as opposed to “Large P” Progressive, which is about telling people how to lead their lives.)

On both a local and national level, who stands out as a shining example of a politician who shares your vision for the Republican Party?

Right now, the politician who shares my vision for the Republican Party is John McCain. Thinking longer-term, the politicians I follow, among others I can’t think of at the moment, are Governor Jindal (R-LA), Senators Coburn (R-OK) and DeMint (R-SC), Congressmen Flake (R-AZ) and Hensarling (R-TX), and Rob Portman (US Trade Representative and Ohio Congressman).

If you could choose how the 2008 elections played out, what would ideally happen in your eyes? Who would you choose for Vice President if you were John McCain?

1) Ideally, John McCain would win.

2) If I were John McCain I’d choose Rob Portman as my running mate. I’d sound out John Bolton, too, because he’s objective, tough, and brilliant…but my political handlers would probably have a fit.

Tired of Being Told What to Do

Tonight, Ben Smith of Politico writes, "How much money will Obama raise off his supporters' perception that this debate was unfair?"

My guess is a lot. Just look at the blog post on Barack Obama's website during the debate that elicits readers' frustrations that Barack Obama was "attacked" tonight and then links over to Obama's fundraising page.

...because when I see someone put under pressure my first instinct is to give them money...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"The Boss" Shakes Up My Playlist

The news has it today that good-old American rocker Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Barack Obama.

I'm not necessarily surprised by the announcement, but the Clinton campaign and I are going to have to get some new songs for our 'Hillary' playlists on iTunes; "The Land of Hope and Dreams" and "The Rising"—both hits by Springsteen—have been on regular rotation at Clinton events the past few months.

John Kerry received Springsteen's endorsement in 2004, and while "the Boss" may not be the ticket to a spot in the White House, he'll certainly bring some mighty good campaign songs to team Obama.

As for two new tunes for the Clintons:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Something's Different Here

A group of three middle-aged women at the end of the line outside Washington Township High School yesterday were blown away that over 2,100 Porter County residents would stand in the freezing rain for over two hours to hear a Democrat speak. President Bush won Porter County by nearly 10% in 2004, though this traditionally-Republican area is now "increasingly moderate" said one woman.

At the very front of the line were two members of the local steel union chapter. The two men wore "I'm Counting on Clinton" and "BUCK FUSH" t-shirts and buttons. One of them said the national Steelworker's Union had endorsed John Edwards. Though they both laughed at Edwards' swift exit from the campaign, one woman nearby didn't laugh, saying "he was the best we had—better than the two left now."

Presidential politics in Indiana have a strange air about them; here there are more people, the campaign organization is, well...less organized, but there is a serious and focused tone that seems to fill everyone here that I never picked up on in New Hampshire, Iowa, and especially in Massachusetts. Indiana isn't Michigan—perhaps the most economically-devastated state in the county—but in many ways Hoosiers here have seen their fair share of unfulfilled promises and politics is far from a game.

The sad reality of Northwest Indiana is that a state once among the manufacturing leaders in the United States has seen thousands of jobs and businesses move overseas. As a result, the economy here is still unstable and towns like the once prosperous Gary look like ghost towns as you pass them on toll-road highway across the state.

Understanding Indiana's plight made me all the more disappointed to realize the extent to which the 2008 campaigns are pushing the limit on their trust with voters by creating false story lines at campaign events like the one in Valparaiso yesterday. It's a trend I first noticed at Obama and Clinton events in November and December of last year, and yesterday the Clinton staff once again passed out "handmade" signs to certain supporters throughout the grandstands inside the gymnasium.

I once made the mistake of assuming a sign I had seen at an event in early January was real, and I wrote up a short blog post about it before learning the holder of the sign didn't create it. After scanning the room to see who was passed which signs, I made sure to avoid speaking with the holders of a handful of some very intriguing creations—"Real Men Vote for Hillary," "You Shouldn't Have to Pay to be Healthy," and a number of others.

One sign did catch my attention though. A young girl no older than four sat with her father in the back corner of the auditorium holding a sign decorated with crayon and pencil that read, "Hillary Supports US Steel." My father had worked for Inland Steel growing up, and the name US Steel has been part of the standard vocabulary of his stories. I recognized the name and went to talk to the family. I introduced myself and explained my familiarity with US Steel to the girl's father. My comment was apparently the first time he had heard of US Steel, as he replied "do you want me to make up a story about how I'm a steelworker?" he said, "They gave me this at the front door." I turned and walked away.

For the first time I was bitterly upset about having been cheated again by one of these "homemade" signs. Hillary Clinton would go on to acknowledge the holder of the "Real Men Vote for Hillary" sign during her speech, and it drew tremendous applause. I still can't understand why, in a part of the country where the true stories you hear are inspiring, saddening, and deeply personal, stories need to be made up and thrust into the spotlight. This is especially true when I listened to Senator Evan Bayh and Senator Clinton speak.

Bayh is a Hoosier by birth and a tremendously popular Senator, due largely in part to the work he has done in strengthening this part of Indiana. Hearing him talk I soon realized Hillary Clinton was lucky to have him on her side, not because her candidacy lacked credibility on economic and Mid-Western values, but because Senator Bayh only furthers Senator Clinton's strength in Indiana. I'm serious when I say that a Clinton–Bayh ticket might be able to shore up Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for the Democrats—a tremendous geographic pickup that could do the trick in putting a Democrat back in the White House.

Hillary Clinton sure didn't feel like an outsider yesterday either. As Ms. Clinton told the story of Magnaquench—an Indiana magnet manufacturer that produced key technologies for precision-guided military weapons that was sold to a Chinese company—the gymnasium fell silent. Families, men, and women sat up in their chairs or stood as far as the back wall of the gym and listened even if they couldn't see the stage. Clinton's words connected with this audience in a way I haven't seen a politician reach out to a crowd before.

"We're going to do everything we can to start to turn things around here" and "we're smart enough to be able to figure this out"; Clinton didn't sound like a "Washington politician." Senator Clinton and Bayh joined the entire gymnasium (including some members of the press—a rare occurrence) in applauding a woman who was laid off by Magnaquench when she finished speaking.

Senator Clinton's words still ring in my ears: "did anybody just stop and think, we need someone in the White House next January who's going to remember Magnaquench." After being in Indiana and having seen Detroit and much of Michigan today, the Democratic nominee (as well as the next President) has a responsibility to help revitalize the Midwest, and if that involves remembering Magnaquench, then all the better.

(all photos: © 2008 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

Hillary in Valparaiso Photos

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Photos (pt. 1 of 1,000,000)

I'm bumming internet off of someone next-door right now and the connection is terribly slow.

I haven't had anything to eat since breakfast and will let some more photos upload over the course of dinner. I'll pen an event summary online sometime tomorrow.

Enjoy the one (unedited) photo that I have.

Politics in Hoosier-land

Valparaiso, IN - The capacity inside the Washington Township School gymnasium is 2,100 and the Clinton campaign staff is discussing how they're going to be able to turn away supporters that have been waiting outside for hours in the freezing rain if the gym reaches capacity.

Updates to come.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I will have covered the 2008 election in person in four states by the end of this weekend. I'm leaving very early today for Indiana to, among other things, attend and photograph an event for Senator Clinton in the wonderful town of Valparaiso.

While New Hampshire practically feels like home to me, Iowa was hard to get used to as an outsider arriving for such a political spectacle. I'm assuming the campaign atmosphere in Indiana will be relatively more low-key--though, if Hoosier politics is anything like Hoosier basketball, I'll be in for quite a treat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Crazy Day: Gary Ackerman, a Red Torch, and Accountability

(This is the first of a new style of blog post I plan to do occasionally. We all mine through dozens of news sources to find the most interesting stories on a given day, but I figure I might as well present the stories I've been struck by every so often and offer some of my own commentary on the day's news. Enjoy!)

1) Something's missing!

That would be your tax dollars. Read the Government Accountability Office report released today on spending abuses by government officials regarding charges to "government-wide purchase cards." Read it HERE.

Notable: "We also found that agencies could not provide evidence showing that they had possession of, or could otherwise account for, 458 or 1,058 accountable and pilferable items. The missing items were valued at over $1.8 million, out of over $2.7 million tested" and "a cardholder at the Department of Agriculture fraudulently paid over $642,000 to a live-in boyfriend....for personal expenditures such as gambling...." See, GAO Report, March 2008, "Results in Brief," pp.5-8.

2) The Olympic torch is getting pushed around the globe while China plays dumb/oppressive

Things are so bad I don't think I'd even be able to bear watching the torch pass by if it were in Boston. I saw the torch run by on a winter night in Boston in 2006 before it jetted over to Turino and I remember how awe-inspiring the moment was. Now the torch's light is exposing the atrocities of the Chinese government not just in Tibet, but in Burma, Sudan, and in China against the nation's own population.

Notable: (from CNN) Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the Olympic torch has been "warmly welcomed by the local people" in each city.

3) Petraeus goes to Washington...

...and we all focus on how Obama, Clinton, and McCain looked or didn't look "presidential" during Senate hearings yesterday.
There's nothing wrong with Senators running for President, but when important business?with expenditures in the trillions, deaths in the thousands, and shock-waves around the world?turns into a presidential job interview as the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing did yesterday, nobody wins.

Notable: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, under an impressive Chairman Howard Berman, held a very civil discussion with Petraeus and Crocker this afternoon. Though the House is the House and comes with its fair share of interesting characters arguing for or against every side of the Iraq situation in a different way, Representative Gary Ackerman of New York stood out today in his moving and direct outlook on the war. Ackerman spoke of the "redo" that Congress has given to Petraeus and the Pentagon to fix the situation in Iraq, a redo that the families of over 4,000 dead American soldiers will never have. Bravo.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Watch Out

I'm usually pretty cynical, but I don't believe the McCain campaign "planted," as some have alleged, pro-McCain supporters at the Senator's rally on MLK day.

Take a look:

Sure, there were some hecklers who kept bugging McCain after he apologized for having voted against establishing Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday decades ago, but it's worth noting that an old, white Republican could give a speech on MLK day in the city where Dr. King died, in front of a predominantly African-American crowd, and not get egged for acknowledging having once opposed MLK day. It's a sign of how strong an opponent McCain will be for the Democrats this November.

People claim that McCain is a dangerous politician in the way he makes mistakes and only comes around to realize and correct them later. I understand their worry. In an election year with a Democratic Senator who, in the face of criticism, attempts to defend her mistakes by leading voters through complicated role-playing games to make her Iraq War votes and NAFTA positions make sense, and another young Democratic Senator who looks good on paper but whose votes and answers to tricky questions leave many perplexed and unsatisfied, McCain's "straight-talk" is a perfect 2008 weapon on his side.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Clinton Campaign Listens to Vargas2040!!

Well, not exactly. I doubt anyone at Team Clinton has bothered to read anything posted here.

I am excited, nonetheless, to see the Clinton camp using a new fundraising format for the Pennsylvania primary. The design is loosely based on a fundraising scheme I drafted up a few weeks ago in response to what I saw as weak attempts to get donors to pony up funds for Ms. Clinton.

Read my earlier post HERE.

Below is the new Clinton fundraising piece: "MyPA."

It's pretty straightforward, with each contributor having the power to select how his or her dollars are appropriated in the Pennsylvania campaign effort. Signs, vans, and television ads are interesting categories to choose among, but I still believe it's more empowering for a donor and political supporter to voice which issues are most important to them and that campaigns could benefit from hearing (in this particular instance) money talk.

Note:: A special pat on the back for the Clinton design team's use of the Pittsburgh Steelers' color palate for their new Pennsylvania site...yes, some people notice those little details.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How to Have a Conversation

Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with a Wesleyan undergrad who's an avid blogger and aspiring economic historian. We ordered some grilled cheeses and burgers, raspberry lime rickeys, and got down to two hours of great conversation.

I quickly realized that in following this election closely for over a year I've never spent so much dedicated time talking about politics. Even better, he was an Obama supporter; it would seem like the perfect setup for a political fist-fight over the lunch tables. Much to my delight, however, the conversation we had brought a level of clarity and perspective to a long-running political battle that I've thus-far not been able to achieve in talking with most of my teachers, friends, or fellow campaign fanatics (let alone I can get from watching cable news!).

In the past few months since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been the Democratic candidates left standing, the only interactions I've had with Obama supporters as a Clinton backer myself have been tense. Even with those I've come to respect, it seems that discussions turn quickly into confrontations and I am immediately being asked to account for the comments of Geraldine Ferraro or Bill Clinton.

In an argument where I'm attacked over President Clinton's comments or I go on the offensive over Obama's "present" votes or something else, the next step is easy to predict—I hit back hard with the type of response I've seen my candidate's PR people use on TV many times over. What could have been a meaningful conversation becomes little more than a heated, though ultimately unsatisfying mudslinging event.

My two hours yesterday were much different. Instead of slinging attacks across the table and pulling tactics off of the TV, I admitted things I didn't like about the Clinton campaign that I would be too afraid to admit in an argument, and my Obama friend acknowledged some of the weaknesses of the Obama movement as well.

It's unfortunate and hard for many people to realize that when you force your politics down someone's throat, they'll never say something that could potentially weaken their own position. Being more civil, however, you notice that the distinctions between Obama and Clinton, for example, are more nuanced. Furthermore, you're more comfortable admitting that your side isn't perfect.

Though neither of us changed our political affiliations after $28 and two hours of talking, we both agreed that there's no reason for us to be enemies. In fact, we agree almost 100% on the policy matters. But what you experience after completing a meaningful discussion is a sense of having gone through a very natural political distillation process in which the news headlines of quarreling superdelegates, race cards, gender cards, and candidate spouses aren't left out completely, but are given the kind of attention they should be given—a quick mention before moving onto more pressing issues.

If you're lucky too, you can share a great drink at Starbucks and agree that Michael Clayton and The Kingdom were fantastic films.