Behind the curtain at historic momentFriday wasn’t going to be a typical day. I knew that Oct. 30 when I got an email from President Obama’s campaign that stated Vice President Joe Biden was planning campaign stops in Beloit and Superior.
By: By Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Friday wasn’t going to be a typical day. I knew that Oct. 30 when I got an email from President Obama’s campaign that stated Vice President Joe Biden was planning campaign stops in Beloit and Superior.
Of course that schedule was subject to change after Hurricane Sandy tore up the East Coast. Honestly, I expected it to change. Still, I assigned everyone on staff — including our sports team — to a task “if this happens.”
I just never imagined how atypical it would be until I was making an early morning to Telegram Photographer Jed Carlson to gather some personal information I normally don’t need.
Friday, it was essential so the Secret Service could do a background check after being asked to join the campaign for a secret second stop.
In 15-plus years, it was the first time the Secret Service was ever called on to check our credentials. That’s in spite of covering as many as six elections in a year, and interviewing two presidential candidates face-to-face in 2004 — Howard Dean and John Kerry, the presumptive candidate at the time to challenge President George W. Bush.
But then again, when you’re traveling with the vice president of the United States — even in the last van of a long procession of vehicles, those Secret Service types want to know you’re not a threat to the nation’s second in command.
The location wasn’t disclosed for security reasons.
A few hours later, we got the all clear to go, and instructions on what was expected of us.
The event itself was a typical campaign event — live music by Blue Collar Blues Club of Duluth, lots of loud music pumping up the crowd, a lengthy wait and finally the main attraction — Biden — giving a stump speech and greeting those nearest him.
Biden’s blunt, call-it-like-you-see-it style is something I like about him. Still it was a typical stump speech in many respects.
After the speech, music pumped from speakers as the vice president shook hands with local residents and dignitaries — even saluting 90-year-old Wallace Checkalski, of Weyerhauser, Wis., a World War II fighter pilot.
That’s when things turned surreal as campaign staffers gathered us together to follow the national press corp. that travels with the vice president for the motorcade to the second stop.
For this veteran reporter, who’s covered many, many elections and campaigns, I admit, I was a bit overwhelmed.
Even a mayor’s or governor’s race isn’t this complicated.
It was the first time I’d seen snipers on the roof of the middle school.
I doubt that was the case when President Calvin Coolidge resided at Central in the summer of 1928 — the junior high I attended in 1979-1980.
And I seriously doubt President Harry S. Truman, who delivered a stump speech from the platform on the back of a train on Ogden Avenue needed a guy like the one we ran into behind the school. He claimed he had the toughest job in the campaign — keeping the vice president from straying from the speech as he ran the teleprompter.
Still, that was 1948 —64 years ago — and this was a rare moment in Superior’s history.
Then there was the ride down Hammond Avenue.
It’s a drive I’ve made many more times than I would venture to guess. However, I’d never seen pockets of people lining the route, taking photos and videos with cameras and phones, waving and hoping to get a glimpse of the vice president.
I was ill-prepared for the speed with which I would need to move. Jed and I were chastised by a Secret Service agent when we didn’t enter the building with the national media.
We felt bad for the Secret Service agent who had only seconds to memorize our faces before the motorcade procession when we learned he was chastised too for not handling us better. He told us so as we walked back to the van, telling us not to feel bad — it happens.
Jed and I aren’t used to the break-neck pace of the national media that travel with the vice president.
Thank goodness we don’t operate that way all the time; I would hate to give up the luxury of a good conversation when there’s a great story to be told.
Still, it was a different view to go behind the curtain — if only for a moment — during this historic moment in the small city we know as Superior.