Utah Governor Jon Huntsman tells a story of how he was stuck in Vietnam while on a trip when the enemy struck America on September 11th, 2001. While waiting for clearance to come home he decided to visit the so-called Hanoi Hilton, where he saw the display there dedicated to Sen. John McCain—"complete with propaganda," Huntsman says.
"And there was just something that hit me. As my country was being attacked and as I sat looking at the cell in which John McCain was held for five-and-a-half years, for some reason in my mind, the man, the imagine of leadership came to the forefront in the most remarkable way," Huntsman told a crowd of Republicans in New Hampshire last weekend.
Huntsman supports Sen. John McCain for President of the United States and he was not shy to share his passion for McCain with Granite Staters. But neither was he the lone dignitary in New Hampshire that day. Across the street former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore was giving a speech to a crowded room of conservatives. And Rep. Tom Tancredo was in town giving a speech about the hazards of not securing our borders against illegal immigrants.
These political stars were in New Hampshire on that cold, blustery January weekend because roughly 500 Granite State Republicans were gathered in Manchester to conduct some official business—electing a new chairman and national committeeman. And when 500 Republicans get together in New Hampshire the year before a presidential election there is certain to be a revolving door of presidential aspirants.
Of course, the main attraction was the GOP meeting’s keynote speaker former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. While this was hardly Giuliani’s first visit to the Granite State, it was his first big visit after having launched his presidential exploratory committee. His speech was long and, by some accounts, a bit listless. As for me, I thought it was a good speech. Giuliani is attempting to circumvent his difference on social issues with hardcore Republicans by appealing to areas of agreement: National security and fiscal responsibility. The crowd seemed receptive.
Being in New Hampshire also brings media types down to earth. While they’re not exactly dead-tree mainstreamers, I palled around with Jonathan Martin of the Politico and Kevin Rennie of the Hotline and the Hartford Courant. To put this into context, please note that I’m just a shlub from Laconia, NH (class clown, four years funning in high school, thank you.)
his is democracy. This is a political process run by the people, not the politicians. And this is a process that gels nicely with the democratization of the media brought on by the ascent of blogging, YouTube and other new media applications. I was not the only credentialed blogger at the New Hampshire Republicans’ annual meeting. This fellow, who writes a blog called Green Mountain Politics, was there, too, and he took great exception to the, um, aggressive professionalism of Mayor Giuliani’s press handlers.
Up in the press balcony of Manchester’s Palace Theater, while we waited for the program to start, a mainstream journalist friend of mine looked at me holding my video camera and my laptop and joked, “they’ll give anyone a press pass these days, won’t they?” I mean no disrespect to the legacy press people, but I hope “they” will give a press pass to anyone these days. Why wouldn’t they?
Democracy is the peoples’ process. Being a blogger in New Hampshire puts me at the center of this very radical storm. And I love it.
(Disclosure: I am a consultant for Sen. John McCain’s exploratory committee.)