The snow continues to fall on the trail.

Politics on the road.
Dec. 20 2007 1:05 PM

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere

The snow won't lift in New Hampshire.

(Continued from Page 2)

Highway 101 to Nashua, N.H., 6:55 p.m.: I am driving very slowly because I don't want to get pulled over again  and because the dark mountain roads turn as if they were drawn by Harold with his purple crayon. It may be the roads or because it's election season, but I'm getting flip-flopper radio reception. No matter the station, I hear two alternating songs. This deletes any good feeling I may have had after listening to Raitt and Browne. On a radio station somewhere, George Thorogood, Robert Plant, and Stevie Nicks are always singing and this makes for interesting lyrical mashups with an uncertain radio: one burbon, one scotch and one white winged dove. (permalink)

Keene, N.H., 5 p.m.: Elizabeth Edwards has just arrived onstage with her daughter Cate, who is a student at Harvard law school. She tells us Cate isn't going to be speaking but then says to the crowd, "Isn't she lovely?" This is not spin. The audience claps because Cate is lovely. This description (though understandable from a mother) would seem a little antiquated and limiting, but then Elizabeth explains that Cate volunteers for a legal-aid bureau and on Thursday will try to keep a family from being evicted the week before Christmas. Lovely and committed, just like her father.

The event has felt a little like a carnival up to this point. Peter Coyote, the actor and author, has spoken and music has been played. Granny D, the 97-year-old political activist, has talked, delivering a righteous clubbing to Hillary Clinton, whom she says is bought and paid for by corporate interests. Elizabeth Edwards centers things, playing her traditional sidekick role. She starts by describing the man she met at law school 33 years ago. "This young man was incredibly sweet about his family. The way he talked about his family would have warmed anyone's heart. He talked about the things he wanted to do and where he'd come from. He didn't have much but he talked about it not in terms of how little he had but all the great gifts he'd been given. The determination and the work ethic and how he was able to bring that to the table in law school. … All those young men I'd met before—they all faded, that one man and that sense of optimism about what a single person can accomplish, made all the difference in the world. It's an incredible characteristic in a husband. It's an essential characteristic in a president. ... He's the same young man I met 35 years ago, and to my great dismay he still pretty much looks the same. My husband, John Edwards."

Edwards arrives onstage dressed like he may have 35 years ago, in jeans and a zippered sweatshirt. Candidates make closing arguments; this is his closing uniform. He was wearing the same thing when I was with him in Iowa last week. During the question period after Edwards' stemwinder speech, his wife returns to make regular interjections. After Edwards answers a question about health care, she adds more about insurance companies' antitrust exemptions. She does the same with a question about the Supreme Court, which Cate has also taken a crack at answering. Edwards reaches the microphone, but Elizabeth waves him away. "Somebody said how they are praying for my good health. Please pray for the good health of Justice Stevens. He is 87 years old and stands between us and even worse decisions by the Supreme Court."

"There is a reason I bring her along," Edwards says taking back the microphone and repeating a question a reporter asked him after watching his wife. "Does she check with you when she speaks?" The answer is no, which becomes clear yet again when Edwards starts to answer a question about how he'll select his Cabinet. "I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of yes people," he insists, getting up a head of steam. "I want people who will say to me you are wrong." The audience starts to laugh loudly because Elizabeth has raised her hand. "Did you raise your hand?" Edwards turns around to ask her. "I thought they did it on their own." They would have. (permalink)

Keene, N.H., 4:45 p.m.: After getting pulled over, I thought about turning around. I was going to be more than an hour late to the event. Fortunately, I was less late than the candidate who is always late. The second floor of the student center was packed to the rafters at Keene State University, which meant the laconic people of New Hampshire are not as stingy with their time as they are their words. They either really wanted to hear John Edwards, or they wanted to hear Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

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I had to work, so I sat down on my jacket to read the edits of my McCain piece. When Raitt and Browne finally took the small stage, standing before a few bleachers of voters, I didn't even get up. Then they started playing "World in Motion" by Jackson Browne (a pretty good song despite a slightly clunky rhyme of hatred and eradicated). The room was transfixed by the performers. I stopped to listen and then had to stand up when they played John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," a gorgeous song about a lonesome woman.  For me, it was like unexpectedly smelling great food cooking somewhere. It triggered an entirely different set of reactions than I have to a normal political speech. If that was true for other people, was it preparing them for Edwards or was it going to make him seem like a cold bucket of water? (permalink)

Keene, N.H., 4:45 p.m.: I'm late and on a two-lane highway in the mountains of New Hampshire. Finally, the pickup in front of me turns down a snow-covered lane. Yahoo! I am off like a rocket. This little spasm of acceleration introduces me to the finest of New Hampshire's state police force. I was encouraged to pull over to the side of the road. License and registration, please, the officer asked me. He was a tremendously kind fellow. Rental cars don't have registration. All I could present him with was the plastic laminated card with instructions for the Neverlost system. He returned to his car to check out my license. (He left me with the laminated instructions.) He returned, and there was some further discussion. Did I mention he was kind? In the end, we came to an accommodation that allowed me to continue on my way without sanction. I drove and reflected on what a kind fellow he was, and I repaid his kindness by driving at 45 mph. (permalink)

Dec. 17, 2007

Weare, N.H., 7:15 p.m.: I'll be filing a piece about a politically stirring moment at the McCain event Monday night in Weare, N.H., but I wanted to post about another moment from the town-hall meeting, too: