Obama in Universal City

He’s a trouper.

Just back from an Obama rally at the Gibson Auditorium in Universal City. The place supposedly seats about 6500, and though it wasn’t quite a sellout I’d guess that there weren’t more than 1000 empty seats: not bad isn’t bad at a minimum of $50 a pop.

Simply as a performance, his speech was a wonder to behold. He had a notecard at the beginning to remind him who needed thanking, but from then on he was extemporizing. Of course, like any good improv act, it was mostly reworked material, but he made it sound fresh. (The Iowa City speech had many of the same lines, though not in the same order.) There wasn’t anything especially substantive about it, but after all this wasn’t exactly a policy-wonk crowd, and they ate it up with a big spoon. He did the I-want-to-work-with-Republicans bit, but speaking to an overwhelmingly Democratic crowd he gave them lots of red meat, though nothing that would sound scary if quoted in a more conservative setting.

One of the big applause lines was a promise not to recruit lobbyists to work in the White House. But actually the applause never really stopped; it was like a fireworks display, with multiple peaks but no really quiet moments; in addition to the expected ovations at the beginning and the end, I think he brought the crowd to its feet either four or five times in half an hour.

Obama is not going to let the Clinton campaign forget that silly press release about his childhood ambition. He did a very funny riff in which he “announced” that he was going to release his kindergarten records tomorrow, and warned that crowd that there was some pretty damaging material there. “I experimented with coloring outside the lines,” he said. “I pulled a little girl’s pigtail once … and I liked it.”

Of course, I’m not really a test, but the guy I went with was still on the fence as between Obama and HRC, and he came away impressed if not completely sold. What struck him was Obama’s reassuring air of sanity: he didn’t seem to be chasing power to soothe some inner demon, or seeking it in a pathological way. When you think about it, that’s not nearly as common as you’d like it to be.

Of course the crowd ate it up.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com