By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
And now two young men arrive with the video, except that it turns out not to be a video, but a laptop computer with digital film of the announcement on it, and it takes forever to set up and fuss with and connect, and when it does get connected, it turns out that the sky’s still so bright that the projection’s barely possible to see. Olivia says, “Only extremely committed supporters would sit here watching such a verrrry faded announcement . . . ,” but we all do; we lean forward, with the last of the sun on our shoulders. There seems to be a red-brick building of some sort on the screen, with crowds of people in front of it. We hear Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords, and then someone who appears to be Dean (“I can see it’s a guy with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up,” says Leila) is zoomed in on for a close-up, and we hear tumultuous applause and cheers, and he begins to speak.
And what he is talking about, almost immediately, is duty and obligation and our responsibility to one another, the restoration of these values . . . reclaiming community . . . “Here are the words of John Winthrop,” he intones: “‘We shall be as one. We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our Commission and Community in our work.’ It is that ideal,” he goes on, “the ideal of the American community, that we seek to restore . . .” He continues speaking for another half-hour while, in an almost too-perfect metaphor, his image on the screen grows clearer in the descending dusk.
“Nice rig,” says Dean appreciatively of the late-model Audi in which a volunteer is chauffeuring us from the UCLA environmental forum to a glamorous house in Benedict Canyon for a big-ticket fund-raiser. “This is what my son wants, but he’s never gonna see one until he pays for it himself . . .” The rally has been impressive: Six hundred people cheering under a blue sky, flashes of sun illuminating the Bruin jersey presented to Dean for his 17-year-old son, Paul, recently arrested with some of his hockey teammates while attempting to remove liquor from a country club at 4 a.m. (Tim Russert, in his interview, alluded to it in a particularly insinuating way: “Is your whole family going to be with you at the announcement ceremony?”) And Dean, who’s been struggling with the normal mixed parental emotions accompanying this kind of incident, is obviously touched by the gift; he puts it on and leads the final chant of “You have the power! You have the power!” with his face beaming over its neckline.
After all the fuss about finding time, Dean is surprisingly collegial and easy to talk to — even cozy — once you’re sitting down with him. You need to remind yourself of the national stature a few short months have brought him; he still seems like such an ordinary — though bright and thoughtful — guy. We discuss the process of national campaigning: how it removes from the very person at its center an accustomed level of control. “That required . . . a lot of letting go for me. Y’know, I was a hands-on governor, I always knew what was going on in most areas and details of state government, and now . . . When you’re running for president, you have to put your fate in other people’s hands. I don’t have a lot of input into the scheduling, and y’know, a lot of times I get up in the morning and go where I’m told.” And then, sounding alarmed at any potential misinterpretation, he adds, “They don’t tell me what to do. Nobody can do that . . .”
We arrive at the fund-raiser, where Dean, among the crowd of elegantly attired guests, a startling number of them with apparent face-lifts, seems more than ever like a college administrator of some sort, or a professor who doesn’t get out much. In an unfortunate lapse of scheduling (the prolonged exuberance of the rally has been unexpected), he’s able to spend only 10 minutes at the party before leaving for the Burbank Airport to catch the last flight to Riverside, where he has another appearance. (It might be worthwhile in the long run to charter a plane, but the campaign can’t easily afford to do that yet, and so far Dean has resisted. “He’s cheap,” Rick Jacobs, the finance co-chair, says cheerfully.)
Back in the car, Dean resumes, almost to the sentence, where we’d left off. He’s been describing the adrenaline boost that can come from a crowd: “This campaign’s a little different from most campaigns,” he says, sounding oddly mystical, “in the sense that it’s not really about me, it’s about a movement to take back the country . . . I’m really a kind of mirror for a lot of those folks, and it’s their own energy which I can reflect back to them. So in a rally, it’s just automatic, I know what they want and I know what they need, and I just reflect back their own hopes and energies and desire to change the country . . .”
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