That's why you could find Sue, Marc, my wife Judy, and I walking to the Costco store in Pentagon City Saturday morning to stand in line to see Mrs. Clinton, who was scheduled to begin signing copies of her new book Hard Choices at 11 a.m.
Arriving at the Costco parking lot shortly after 9 a.m., it was apparent that this wouldn't be your normal book signing. There was the crowd. Lines of more than 700 people, many with a copy (or copies of) Hard Choices in hand, were already established alongside the entire western side of the store.
Then there was the bus in the parking lot. The red, white and blue bus with a big picture of Hillary on the back where you see her texting with the words Please Don't Text and Drive. On the side, the messages Ready for Hillary and Join the Movement were displayed in giant type. Outside the bus, dozens of people were stacking tables with "I'm Ready For Hillary" buttons and signs. Others were rolling up posters of Hillary to distribute to those who wanted them. Still others were huddled in small groups, getting further instructions for the day.
|Does this look like a book bus to you?|
We were greeted by Megan Collins from Orange County, California, who is a sophomore in college here in the DC area. She offered us our "I'm Ready for Hillary" stickers (which as an old practicing journalist I declined) and explained the procedures for the day.
I asked Megan why she was working for the as-of-yet-not-declared candidate. "We're here to show Hillary today that we have a number of people supporting her if she decides to run. And we'll still be here for her in 2016."
Megan said that while she endorses Mrs. Clinton for her political views, she also has a more personal reason to join the "I'm Ready for Hillary" campaign. Both of her parents are big Bill and Hillary Clinton supporters. When she was 8 months old, Megan had her picture taken with Mrs. Clinton. Later, her mother said, "maybe you'll be working with her when you're older."
"And here I am," she said with a wide smile. "I think it's pretty revolutionary for a former First Lady to go out and make a name for herself. Not only is she a strong representative for the female community, she is a strong representative for America."
But, of course, not everyone is as admiring of Mrs. Clinton as Megan or my wife's roommate, Sue.
"I'm here to let people know that there is another side to Hillary," Lipnicki said. "If she wants to be president, what she did or did not do will impact America for years to come. She's no leader. Where was she when we needed her as secretary of state?"
And Lipnicki was not alone in his opposition to Clinton. At the front entrance of the store, the Republican National Committee had unleashed it new anti-Clinton weapon - a volunteer NRC worker in an orange-and-white squirrel costume wearing a dark blue t-shirt with the slogan "Another Clinton in the White House NUTS" written in red and white letters on the front.
Meanwhile, back in line, people passed the time by chatting - not surprisingly - about politics, government, and the Clintons.
Laird White from Arlington told us why he was spending 2-and-a-half hours here on a sunny Saturday. "I'm looking forward to 2016 and I'm hoping that somebody competent stays in the White House," he said. White also said he had a suggestion he wanted to deliver to Mrs. Clinton. He believes he knows who should be her running mate - current senator and former Gov. Mark Warner from Virginia. "If she does choose Warner, then I can take credit for the pick," he said with a laugh.
For her part, Suzie was having a hard time keeping her excitement in check. "What should I say her? Don't you think she's wonderful? She's so great."
Suddenly, she hit me on the shoulder. "Look, there's Bill Clinton. Right behind us."
|Suzie and Bill Clinton?|
"I was sitting on that loading dock over there and a woman came over and said, 'If I can't get a picture with him, I can get a picture with you.'" Then others did the same thing.
I spent the next hour or so talking to Meidlinger, who, although he wasn't the former president, did have a really interesting story behind his reason for getting Mrs. Clinton's signature. Autograph gathering was something he had started with his younger daughter, who had a passion for baseball that she developed while playing sandlot ball with the boys in her neighborhood. She played Little League with the boys; then continued on to pitch with them on the high school baseball team. She had thrown a perfect game and been featured in a section of Sports Illustrated. Later, she made the US Women's Baseball Team, but once it was decided that baseball wouldn't be an Olympic sport, she gave up actively participating in the game. But she and her Dad continued collecting autographs.
Finally, after noon, we entered the store. In order to see Mrs. Clinton you had to be a Costco member. Judy and I had bought a membership the day before for $55. But since we had only 2 cards, that meant that only Judy and Sue could continue through the line. When we had purchased our membership, I told Dave, one of the store managers, about my plans to blog about the event. He suggested that we not carry anything in to the signing, since it would have to be stored and checked. So Judy and Sue gave their pocketbooks and small beach chairs to Marc, who would hold them, while I wandered around the store trying to capture more details for this post.
I will let Judy describe what happened next:
Sue and I were given yellow wristbands after we showed our 2 Costco membership cards. We proceeded following the yellow arrows down the cement floor aisles blocked off for the signing. Store employees had constructed a giant wall using slats of water bottles for a base and slats of paper towels for height to secure the signing area.
Since we weren't carrying anything (not even a cell phone or a pre-purchased book), we were told to take a shortcut across 3 aisles of waiting Clinton fans, where we were scanned by Hillary's security and lead to the inner signing area.
Sue meantime had asked me at least a dozen times if I was going to get her a book for Hillary to sign. I repeatedly assured her they would have books inside the maze that we could purchase and finally asked the security people just to assure her.
Sue asked me what I was going to say Hillary and, after thinking about it, I said I would simply thank her for all she has done for us (women).
As we rounded the final aisle, there she was, elevated on a platform, surrounded by hundreds of books and many members of her staff and security.
The people ahead of us had cell phones and were taking pictures while in line. "Oh man," I said to Sue. "David will be upset that we don't have our phones to take a picture" I turned around to Rick, our new friend and Bill Clinton look-alike, and asked him to take a few shots of Hillary signing books and then email them to us. He said he would.
The line was moving very quickly, but Sue observed that Hillary was shaking hands with every person in line.
"Oh my God Judy, what am I going to say to her. Doesn't she look beautiful? I mean really beautiful?" Sue blurted out, obviously awe-struck at finally seeing Hillary up close and personal.
When it was our turn, three of us were herded up. Hillary shook all three of our hands and we were given a pre-signed book and led out the other side of the signing area. The entire process took less than 20 seconds.
I didn't get to say "thank you for all you have done," but we had gotten Sue to meet her political idol.
|(photo from Politico)|
At the entrance, Sue saw the RNC squirrel for the first time. She read his (or her) T-shirt. Her eyes sparked. "That's not nice. He shouldn't be here."
I understood Sue's point, her being a Hillary Clinton devotee and all that. But she was wrong. The squirrel did belong, as did John Lipnicki and the others who joined him on the sign-waving protest line. They are as important to Democracy as Sue and Megan Collins and all the other Hillary supporters.
In America, we talk of the twin pillars of freedom and liberty. To me, that means choice. No one person or no one party has a monopoly on truth. We need vital debate to remain a vigorous nation. If, as expected, Hillary is the Democratic nominee, she can offer her vision of America. Her opponents can offer theirs. The people can then decide which one they want to follow.
I only have one problem with that scenario. I believe in voting, but I really, really hope the choice never comes down to the squirrel or Sue. I mean one has "NUTS" on his (or her shirt) and the other is completely ... well, you know. One never speaks and the other is never quiet. One is weird looking, but kind of cute and the other is an orange squirrel.
But then nobody ever said that book signing - or politics - is easy.
Extra Extra Read All About It!
The Prices Do DC Offers Even More Hillary
- What it's like to ride on the Hillary Bus (when it's not broken down) (from The Washington Post)
- With a faint smell of canned chicken in the air, Hillary signs her new book. (from The Washington Post)
- On this Saturday in Costco, you could find Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, and John Lewis (from Politico)
- The RNC chases Hillary with a giant orange squirrel (from The Daily Beast)
- 5 tests for Hillary's book tour (from Politico)