Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Little Political

TigerBlog forgot to mention one thing about his ride to the University of Maryland the other day.

The security around the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, home this week to the Democratic National Convention, was incredible. And this was before the convention ever began.

TigerBlog has avoided talking about politics in the eight years he's been doing this. And he'll continue to stay away from the subject, at least as it relates to specific candidates and positions.

What he will say is that the entire political landscape is fascinating. And it's fairly reflective of where American society is right now.

Let's face it. If you like Donald Trump, then you loved his speech last week. If you don't like Donald Trump, you hated it. And there's no objectivity. TigerBlog doesn't know anyone who said "hey, I don't like the guy, but that was a great speech" or "hey, I love that guy, but his speech wasn't good."

The same will be true of Mrs. Clinton's speech later this week.

Another issue is that there is almost no middle ground for analysis either. These days, people seem to like to seek out information that reinforces their existing beliefs rather than challenging them or at the very least finding something impartial about the issue that might then offer insight.

This, TigerBlog thinks, is one of the main reasons why this country is so polarized. Complex issues are simplified into "right" and "wrong," and there really is very little in the way of neutral discussion. It becomes "I am right" and "you are wrong." It's actually sort of childish. With the explosion of information out there, especially Twitter, and the 24-hour cable news talk programming, this will continue to grow.

TigerBlog loves to read both sides of an issue to see this dynamic in action. Mr. Trump's speech is a perfect example. It got either an A+ or an F, depending on who was doing the grading.

TigerBlog has met two U.S. Presidents. No doubt they remember the experience just as vividly as TB does.

Both times it was because of Princeton Athletics.

The first was at Commencement in 1996, when Bill Clinton, then running for reelection, spoke here. TigerBlog's job that day was to be a liaison to the national press corps, which mostly meant taking Wolf Blitzer to the U Store.

TB got to meet President Clinton after the speech, when he met with the men's lacrosse team and women's rugby team after their national championships. That was in front of Prospect House.

For some reason, none of the other five men's lacrosse teams that won the NCAA championship were invited to meet the President. The 1996 team wouldn't have been either had the President not been on this campus.

The second time TB met the President was in the White House, when TB was there with the women's lacrosse team. This was in the fall of 2003, when all of the spring NCAA championship teams were invited to meet President George W. Bush.

After a very long wait, the teams were ushered into a large room, and TB was the furthest away from the front entrance of any one involved in the proceedings. The Secret Service then instructed everyone not to reach for the President unless he extended his hand first.

After a few minutes, the door next to TB opened - TB didn't even realize it was a door - and President Bush walked out. TB was the first person there, and the President offered his hand. TigerBlog reached out to shake his hand while possibly also saying "don't shoot" at the same time.

As TigerBlog thinks back on his time at Princeton, the opportunity to meet two sitting U.S. Presidents is way up there.

In fact, Princeton Athletics has enabled him to meet congressmen, senators and governors, including the current governor of New Jersey, with whom TB had his picture taken at the baseball regional in Louisiana. Governor Christie, whose son Andrew was the senior catcher for the Tigers, looks pretty happy to be in the picture with TB.

On both occasions where he met the President, TigerBlog was as impressed or even more impressed by the extent of the security. And the manner in which the Secret Service officers conducted themselves.

When President Clinton was at Princeton, the security presence was everywhere, with officers who were at once heavily armed and unbelievably polite. It was quite a combination.

If you wanted to cross over from one side of a walkway to another and in doing so would go from one restricted area to another, the Secret Service person assigned would not let you go under any circumstance and would apologize profusely for not being able to let you go, all while holding a gun.

That's sort of intimidating. And it sort of changes the dynamic quickly. It's no longer "should I walk across the path." It becomes "will I get shot if I do so?" 

The Secret Service people were dressed in business suits with earpieces, just like on TV. This, though, doesn't even mention all of the people who were there who were Secret Service agents but weren't dressed like them. You know. The ones who piled out of the limo early that morning dressed like a gardener, a back-packer, anything to blend into the background. That's another one of TB's most vivid memories of that day, seeing the limo turn off Washington onto Prospect at about 6 am, as seven people got out and dispersed into anonymity.

The White House? That was inspections and pressure chambers and searches and everything else you can imagine.

As for I-95 by the Wells Fargo Center, well, there's quite a perimeter set up there.

If you know the stretch of road, then trucks are not permitted anywhere between the Philadelphia Airport and the Ben Franklin Bridge. There are police cars everywhere on the highway. Lanes are closed. Exits are blocked with dump trucks.

By the arena itself there is a big wall, and a bunch of temporary structures that TB assumes are entry points.

Again, TigerBlog was impressed with the security, both what could be seen and what was there but couldn't be seen.

So that's enough politics for one day.

Maybe TB should stick to something less controversial. Like the weather.

It's hot out.

But who could possibly like winter better? 

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