I seemed to have peed on my suit jacket, just now, in the restroom here at the Cleveland University's Wolstein Center, location of the last Democratic debate in the 2008 presidential primary cycle. I am on Location, I have traveled through Icy Hell to bring you this top-notch Reporting; I have seen the Beast up close, and it let me keep my beer.

Oh God....where am I? Why am I here? And why do I always begin these missives in the restroom, with detailed accounts of the heroic struggles of my urinary tract? These are legitimate questions, and by God, you deserve some answers. I am sorely addled, but let me try to sort this out, for my own sake if for no other reason.

I attended yesterday's Cincinnati Barack Obama rally and endured the tears of his loyal supporters; hugging and crying, weeping and painting beautiful pictures. The excitement is perfect; I couldn't stop smiling. I have covered his roundtable discussions and I am always amazed by his 'sincerity'. He is the most engaging man in politics by a considerable margin, and there is a very specific reason for his meteoric rise to the top of the political shark pond. Even a repressed manic like me gets swept up in the sheer power of the man, let alone the enthusiasm of his earnest supporters. I find it all too easy to ignore the flaws in his political does most of the media who cover him.

"I support globalization," he declared, to wild applause. "I support having trade agreements, but we have to make sure they are properly regulated to protect workers, to protect their jobs, and to protect consumers." He smiled broadly, and I felt the first shiver of doubt shake me from the spine up. Globalization? And they're clapping? It was a foreshadowing of fearful policy positions as yet untaken...

I left a little early and tried to make it to his Dayton event but I became horribly lost and ended up smoking a joint and drinking Wild Rose with a black priest I found on Germanville road. I left Dayton when I sobered up and traveled East on I-70 to Columbus. Victorian's Midnight Cafe was still open, and I decided to write my piece up there. Around midnight, I received an email from a recent acquaintance, a Washington Times writer traveling on the Obama bus. The message shocked my sleep-deprived system: despite assurances and denials from Pesky Peckerhead Peter the Obama Press Pansy that there were no scheduled media access sessions with Obama, my new contact forwarded me a Q&A listing for 9:00 a.m. in Cleveland.

I left the coffee shop in haste; dropped off the cute night barista at her house and headed for Cleveland at 12:30 a.m. I was pushing 75 m.p.h. when I lost control.

The freezing rain had finally frozen the road. I was at the top of a massive hill on I-71, and my tachometer suddenly jumped up to 6,000 RPM. My wheels had broken free of the road and were spinning at an insane speed as the tires lost their grip. The road curved off to the right at the bottom of half-mile decline, and I realized I was about to crash. My Honda began to fishtail, so I threw it in neutral to maintain course. I watched the speedometer climb as I plunged straight down the hill.

Woo, I thought to myself. I am in a tight spot, here. I put the car into fifth gear and popped the clutch at around 4,000 RPM; the poor alignment of the vehicle made it veer sharply to the right, towards the guardrail. I quickly put it back in neutral and regained my straight line into the curve. I was going to crash, and there seemed little to do about it, so I turned on the tape deck and inserted my Merle Haggard cassette.

"Viva la Mexico, go wher they let yew go, do what yew cane fer the laind..."

At the bottom of the hill, I tried fifth again; as the car cut to the right, I steered into the slide and felt the tires secure a weak purchase, the car was giving an inch with every two it gained.

As I hit the curve the car slid across three lanes and onto the lefter berm, throwing up plumes of snow as it left the road. I down-shifted as rapidly as possible and felt the wheels grab a little more, and the car was doing thirty as I left the curve. I didn't have a chance to breath my relief, however. The snow and freezing rain continued without mercy, and I was well ahead of the snow plows. I averaged forty for the next hour and a half, sliding horribly on curves and feeling a split-second away from awful crunching death. Tractor-trailers would pass occasionally, throwing massive amounts of snow and slush under my wheels and blocking my vision entirely. My hands gripped the steering wheel and I tried to keep my sled on the road for the next hour, until I was finally too exhausted to continue. An Econo Lodge sign loomed in the darkness, so I pulled off the freeway and coasted up the ramp.

I told the night clerk to keep the wake-up calls coming and to start at 6:00 a.m. I stressed how important it was that I be up at that time, so I was surprised to wake up to my Columbus Post editor calling me at 8:30.

Dialing "0" on the room phone, I screeched, "What the fuck does SIX A M mean to you assholes, anyway?"

"Sir, Kristina called you so many times that the guest in the room next to you complained; he checked out at 7:30. She even came down and pounded on your door. We were going to call 911 if you didn't answer at check-out time."

"Jesus God, you've cost my company a $2 million contract," I replied. "Why didn't you just come in and pour hot coffee on me? It's not like I wanted my fucking shoes shined or anything."

I had missed the Q&A by at least two hours, so I watched gameshows on TV for a couple hours and limped my way on to Cleveland.

After a minor struggle with the one-way streets I found the Wolstein Center, the location for the 20th Democratic debate, hosted by MSNBC. I parked on the sidewalk and went in the media door to sign in for my credential and check out the scene.

Security was obviously going to be a hassle, so I decided to get a drink first. I walked past the various activist types stationed around the arena. The Hillary camps and Obama camps were situated on opposing corners of the street, armed with banners and signs, drumming on buckets, chanting campaign slogans and other sorts of wishful thinking. Following directions I got from a cop, I headed to a nearby bar and was waylaid by a small group of Hillary's supporters who, identifying me as press, began to harass me.

"Oh, I suppose you are an Obama supporter, aren't you? The media only covers Obama now. Why can't you stay objective? What is so wrong with Hillary?"

I pointed out that the idea of "objective journalism" was a construct of the Associated Press, initiated so journalists could sell the same article to multiple publications and earn more money. She was having none of that, however, and obnoxiously demanded that I tell her why I supported Obama.

"Well, because he's black, I guess. I like blacks more than women; they tend to be smarter." I was trying to be lighthearted, but she suddenly became very aggressive and wild-eyed, so I tried to mollify her with "serious press questions". She answered each question with a question of her own, a tactic I was first taught as a young Christian.

"So, miss. Why do you support Hillary Clinton?"

"She's got more experience. She has Six Years in the U.S. Senate, and has fought for universal health care since before it was popular."

"Obama has eight years...doesn't that mean that he has more experience?"

"Oh, come on, Puh-leeze...she was in the White House for eight years," she retorted angrily. "Obviously, Clinton has more experience."

"Didn't she keep her plans for universal health care in a locked box, protected by the Secret Service?" I asked.

"You don't think Obama has skeletons in his closet? Why is the media so biased toward Obama?" I thought carefully. It is a good question; I certainly acknowledge that there is a strong media bias for Barack, and I can't condone that. At the same time, I believe I understand it.

"He's much more fun. Don't you think he's more fun?"

I left her fuming and found a pizza parlor called Bricco's with a cute bartender and healthy selection of booze. I ordered a triple well whiskey with a splash of Coke and sucked it all down in one gulp. I ordered another and tried to prepare myself for the zoo of pack journalists and snotty handlers, SS men and exuberant supporters...I knew they were in charge now, but I wasn't going to go quietly. I had another double and ordered two Bud Lights to go, stuffed them in my camera bag and walked back to the Wolstein.

When I got to the security checkpoint, I was careful to maintain eye contact with the Secret Service agent checking my bag. He looked up at me when he saw the beer and I flashed him with my most winsome smile.

"C'mon, man. Be a sport."

He looked at me carefully, and zipped up the bag.

"Don't do anything stupid." I thanked him and went up to the press file room on the fourth floor. There was seating and power for six hundred members of the press, but I was still early enough to have my pick of workspace. Like a problem child in grade school, I chose a spot at the very back of the room and sat down to work, my head spinning slightly from the whiskey. I popped opened a Bud and began to work, writing my ex-girlfriend this spectacular email:


Ol' b uddy...I'm drunk as a skunk. I am in the file room, here at Cleveland University. Thankfully I found a gar down the street, where ther was whickey...they let me in, and with two bud lights to boot. the secret service guy said "don't do anyting stupid" and I said "you rock, feller, and you are a patriot to boot."

holy shit...two relevant "to boots" in near consecutive senternces.

my notebook is full...damn near it, anyway. I only have a few pages left...I hav3 exhausted it on this evil campaign and it is full of glory for Obama, which I find, now drunk, terribly emberrassing...that and of course various derisions for the GOP fuckers. far too little on steely-eyed hillary, and that is the probelem, you see. I have not been fair, nor balnacned. I will find hil tomorrow and woo her. I must; it is the only Proper thing to do, in a time like this, with my notebook full of drivel. A Clinton supporter outside the arena damn near beat my ass, only a little while earlier, for telling her to go to hell and to taste my 'objectivity', that obscure journalistic quality for which se was so strenuously hollering for.

sure, there's a media bias. I can't condone it, but who can blame them? Brock O'bama is far more entertainging to watch; he is Good Times, and she is stale and lifeless. I will rectify my own mdia bias tomorrow, but I can not and will not anser for the other fuckers in the media. By God, I am trying, here. If I had more money, I would take planes to everwhere...

this should be the big one, though. Hillary's last chance to stop the howling beast that is the O'bama campaign, as it romps all over her shits...


************************************* "So, who are you with? " asked the Secret Service agent who confronted me as I smoked a cigarette illegally on the balcony of the Wolfstein, watching the protesters on the street below.

"Uhhh...the Post," I slurred.

"How did you get the brew in here?" He wasn't large, but he seemed quite willing to beat all the dogshit right out of me; still, I couldn't compromise the friendly agent who had slipped me through.

"You realize there's no good answer to that question, right?" I retorted stupidly.

"Never mind. Finish your cigarette, then kill your beer and throw it away. Alcohol isn't permitted on the 4th floor. Don't do anything stupid."

I sobered up some, more or less in time for the press 'photo flurry'. All the photographers were shuffled down to the arena and we milled around the stage as firefighters played bagpipes and various speakers gave brief speeches, short pep talks leading up to the main event. Mayor Frank Jackson of Cleveland, Governor Ted Strickland, the school's provost...all of these were merely chances for us to get our levels. I snagged a couple shots of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Chelsea Clinton, who is far more attractive in person than she has ever appeared on television, and waited impatiently.

The entire press corps was getting restless; we were tired of taking pictures of people we didn't have time to care about. Tim Russert and Brian Williams did little to comfort us; after a few yucks they returned to their laptops and let the crews shove wires into their asses for the cameras. We were feeling ignored, and our angst manifested itself when the candidates finally made their appearance. We were given less than a minute to get our shots and then the press handler began to shoo us out of the arena. The press revolted at that point. We planted our feet, refused to move at all, and the handler couldn't take it. He began to shake and shout and tried to push all forty of us out the door. He wasn't used to being ignored, and we had him rattled...his cries became louder and more frustrated.

"I've done ten of these debates, and I have never seen a less cooperative press group!" he whimpered. I shouted, "Move it, scum, you goddamn hacks! You are stubborn and evil, all of you-slime!" The handler put his hand on my shoulder and I spun around to face him. He looked panicked , and I could read the thoughts behind his pock-marked face: Oh god, I can't fight a journalist here...not on is this happening?

I was only kidding, though; I didn't need any of that hassle, not with the rest of the election cycle still ahead. Besides, I knew that the Secret Service had my number, and I did not need one of those ornery fuckers to come out of the woodwork and choke me out there in front of the stage. The press corps had given up the fight at that point and we begrudgingly complied with his demands, shuffling back to the media floor, giggling and mocking the whiny bastard as he followed us up the stairs.

I returned to the press file room and watched the debate on the TV monitors. Clinton was coming out hard and strong on health care; there was a sixteen-minute dialog chronicling their insubstantial differences.

The next question was about NAFTA, and I felt a little sorry for Clinton, who has been trying hard (if not honestly) to distance herself from her previous support of the agreement. Russert began quoting her prior statements on the issue; had anyone naively hoped that she had indeed never backed it, as she had been recently claimed, their hopes were dashed on the jagged rocks of reality.

""NAFTA has been good for New York and it has been good for America." Clinton, 2002.

"It has been proving it's worth to free and fair trade." Clinton, 1996.

Although Obama's support for the agreement in a speech to farmers in 2002 was mentioned, the item did not scan, somehow. Clinton's tightly pursed lips were either a desperate attempt to suppress bad gas (a tactful move lost on the press, who devoured the free pasta and kept the room humming with their atmospheric contributions), or she was already pissed. Russert reminded us that we could be out of NAFTA in six months if we wanted, and asked Clinton point-blank whether she would put an end to the thing if she were elected.

She said she would not, but that she would 'renegotiate' it to make it more favorable to us. "Us" who? After some sparring on her past support, the same question was put to Obama and he said the same thing. No difference at all; he holds the same view of NAFTA as Hillary Clinton. They are both willing to renegotiate, but they are unwilling to scrap it. To hear them talk, you would think that it was Mexico and Canada that had fucked the thing up...more favorable to Us.

Damn, that makes me mad. I think I have been hanging out with Obama a little too much over the last few days. I have found myself getting caught up in the energy and failing to holler about the lack of substance his campaign is running. is a failed agreement, it doesn't work for us, and it won't work for us. It is a terrible program and it needs to be shut down tomorrow, no time to waste.

But neither Democratic candidate plans to scrap it; they want to renegotiate. Neither candidate is willing to say, "this is bullshit and we don't want it anymore." The evil truth here is that both candidates owe some debts to Big Business, which HAS benefited from NAFTA by lowering production costs through outsourcing jobs to Mexico and keeping their taxes out of our coffers; and one of these fuckers is going to take their debts with them to Washington. The shots back and forth are brutal and entirely craft. There is no substantive difference between these candidates; they are not wed to reason or logic, they are wed to their ambition.

I can't help but think of their reactions to Castro, cheering as he stepped down and calling on the new Cuban administration to 'stop the oppression' and embrace Democracy. We haven't dealt with the Cubans in nearly fifty years, but by God we have a spectacular trade agreement with Red, Communist-as-Fuck China. We buy their lead-soaked toys and shove them into our children's mouths before we get out of the Wal-Mart, where everything is fabricated by Tibetan slave labor in Northern China. Despite $3.00 a gallon fuel prices, we tolerate them drilling for oil just off our coasts. They buy up our mortgages and our debts and our land, intentionally devalue our currency, tacitly support Kim Jhong Il and his Very Real Weapons of Mass Destruction...but by God, Americans can go to Jail for even possessing a fucking Cuban cigar.

Damn you, America! They have Pissed down your Backs, and you believed the Weather Report.

Thoroughly disgusted, I left for a few minutes and went outside to watch the activists in the street. Their numbers had grown, and now seemed to include some of the more radical elements as well. I heard chants of "There is no debate! There is no debate!"

They weren't even watching the damn thing; how could they know that? I smoked a cigarette and watched twenty people carrying a giant banner down the street that read "Kosovo is Serbian", followed by slow-moving cop cars with their lightbars flashing. I could hear a marching band up the street, and many of the activists were pounding on buckets and chanting, under close surveillance by the Cleveland Police Department. Weird, I thought. Why are these silly fuckers playing in the snow the only ones willing to point out the awful fraud of this damned thing? Feeling a little dejected, I walked back inside.

Russert asked Obama whether he would honor his commitment to a publicly funded campaign for the general election, were he to secure the nomination. John McCain accepted his challenge last week, and now Obama's sincerity was being put to the test...he began to talk around the question, saying that he would sit down with John McCain and discuss the proposition and the logistics of such a move. He said that his average campaign contribution was $109, almost exclusively from individual supporters, but when the question was reiterated point-blank, he refused to commit. Why? Why is a closed-door discussion with McCain necessary here?

Clinton promised to disclose her tax filing from last year but refused to say why she had not made that information available when the media first started requesting it two weeks ago...she has been too busy campaigning, I suppose, to find the necessary documents.

Obama refused to reject the endorsement he received last week from the notoriously anti-semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan, but said that he had done what he could to distance himself from Farrakhan in the past, denouncing the racist comments the Minister has made. All of it was an intricate dance around the question, though; somehow he even connected his support from the Jewish community with Jewish support of the civil-rights movement.

"Without them (the Jewish civil-rights community, I would not be sitting here today." I found myself questioning the appropriateness of that wouldn't be sitting there today without Martin Luther King Jr., motherfucker. You wouldn't be sitting there without Rosa Parks.

"But do you reject the endorsement, Senator Obama?" Russert was offering him a clear chance to rectify this line of shit he had spun around the issue.

"I can't say to someone...that he can't say he thinks I am a good guy." Somehow, through that string of gibberish, Obama managed to pull out without contracting firedick. Clinton thought she would take another pass at it and told a story from her time campaigning in New York. Apparently, there are other important parties in New York outside the Democratic and Republican camp; the Independence Party, whose leaders were openly racist, endorsed her when she made her bid for the Senate. She had to reject the endorsement because of her strong principles, etc...fully poised to thrust the spear home to Obama and make her first strong point of the night, she flubbed it. She stumbled trying to differentiate between "reject and denounce" and Obama struck back, making her sound as though she were quibbling over semantics. She stumbled and sputtered and everyone else got to laugh and enjoy Obama's charismatic debating style, which is all they wanted in the first place.

The debate moved on to the war in Iraq, with both candidates climbing all over each other to trumpet their opposition to the war.. Clinton had plenty of ammo to support her argument that Obama had indeed supported the war at various times, but couldn't seem to find purchase.

"When he came to the senate, he voted exactly the same as I did, both of us consistently voted to fund the war... until recently." Right-O, darling. You, both of you, have supported the war for your entire senatorial careers; voting to fund the damn thing is far more meaningful than anything they could have ever said about it. With two charismatic and influential figures like them opposing the war with our Money, who knows how much more quickly support for it would have dwindled? I must point out that Rep. Dennis Kucinich has always voted against the war...going to war, funding the war, every element of the war. The hardest line anti-war candidate was also the most media-fucked candidate, and is now fighting for re-election to his seat in Congress.

Obama justified voting for the war as a matter of pragmatism.

"Once we had driven the bus into the ditch there were only so many ways to get out." He accused Clinton of enabling Bush to begin the war in the first place, and suggested that it would be hard for Hillary to debate against McCain on an issue on which she had agreed with him until the begining of her campaign.

Obama gave the current administration credit on several foreign policy moves, such as the Predator strike into Pakistan (he pronounces it very correctly: 'Pokeeston'. Surprisingly enough Rush Limbaugh didn't jump on it the next day, not even once) which had killed al-Libi "the Libyan", al Queda's third highest ranking terrorist, and for building a coalition in Slavic nations that could now support Kosovo's recent declaration of independence from Serbia. He said he thought more attention should be placed on hunting down terrorist cells in Afghanistan, rather than continuing to waste money and troops in Iraq.

Hillary called him out on his dedication to fighting in Afghanistan, and said that as chairperson for the Subcommittee on Europe, he hasn't had a single hearing since his appointment to the position. The subcommittee holds jurisdiction over our dealings with NATO and could be a platform to call for a more aggressive NATO presence in Afghanistan. He pointed out that his appointment coincided with the beginning of his campaign, and that he hadn't had time for it.

Too bad he has been so busy. No one seemed to have much of a problem with his excuse.

The debate was one of the best I have ever seen Tim Russert moderate, and some really tough questions were thrown at both candidates. Unfortunately, neither Obama nor Clinton was up to the challenge; their answers were guarded and walked as far around the simple and specific questions as they could. Conspicuously missing, however, was debate or positioning on some of the other issues in this campaign, items that have been neglected for quite some time now: We haven't heard dick about education. We haven't heard any positions on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, although the controversial bill made it through the Senate recently and will be voted on by the House within the week.

The affair concluded with the usual ass-kissing and I packed up my stuff to go poke around the Spin Room, where the candidates' respective surrogates were supposed to be doing interviews. Jesse Jackson was down there, but the line was long and I was weary. I ran into Ohio Rep. Tracy Heard from the 26th district, there spinning her own campaign for re-election. I had recently interviewed her at the Spice Bar in Columbus for the Post, where she had struck me as a potentially sincere politician. I was disappointed to hear that her support for Obama was so total, so unwavering, that she was unwilling to criticize him on a single point, not even his difficulty on committing to uphold his earlier agreement to run his campaign for the general election entirely on public funds.

"I think they tried to make it seem like he was waffling on the issue, but really he just wants to make sure that it would be fair, and that John McCain would be fair on his end of it."

I asked her whether she thought a publicly-funded Obama campaign would find itself disadvantaged to a privately funded McCain campaign. She didn't think it would...

"So why wouldn't Obama commit to honoring his statement?"

"I just think he wants it to be fair." By then one of the other media wolves in the pack had caught the scent of blood and stuck his microphone recorder in our faces, so I wished her luck and went on my way.

I returned to the file room and tried to continue working, but I couldn't focus. Damn, what a bummer; I had really hoped for a lot more out of the Illinois senator, and felt betrayed. Hillary Clinton can get away with being as crooked as Bubba, 'casue Bubba worked out. Well enough, anyway; sure, there were some scandals. Whitewater? Whatever. NAFTA? George H. W. Bush brokered that in 1992. Bill got it passed through Congress, but they were more than willing...the responsibility for NAFTA should be equally distributed across Washington. Bill was hardly alone at the stinky tit; everyone smelled Money and GM sent company reps to dance naked on the desks of everyone in Congress, flabby white flesh heaving and sweating in every office on Capitol Hill. Sex scandals? I want to fuck Ann Coulter. Sex scandals are Good Fun these days; livens things up. Who was that bald-headed journalist in the White House press corp, giving Bush press questions and making his bread on twink porn websites? Not me, I can assure you...but we didn't even really get to hear much about that.

Barack Obama convinced me that he was different. I danced to that dirge all weekend...and now the brutal truth soaks me through like a shit rain. Every presidential candidate has run on a platform of changing the way business is done in Washington, from FDR to Carter to Reagan...don't get your hopes up for anything impressive, from either Democrat running. We'll rid ourselves of the Neo Cons; they have been especially bad, but they blew their collective load far earlier than any of us expected. Elect a Democrat and at least your Bread and Circuses will be more convincing.