Despite being a relatively small city in respect to the entire United States, Santa Barbara has become a stop for several presidential candidates this election cycle, the latest coming Thursday night, when New York Senator Hillary Clinton flew into Santa Barbara Airport and made the quick trip to UCSB, where she held a town hall meeting with about 1,000 people, most of whom were students from the university.
Word of Clinton’s visit to UCSB first trickled out Tuesday night, and details were finalized by Wednesday. Students began lining up for the meeting Thursday morning, and by 5 p.m. all 1,000 tickets to the event had been handed out, leaving a lot of students and others empty-handed and out of luck. People not in line by mid-afternoon Thursday didn’t get in. A crush of people – twice as many than were allowed entrance – was reported outside, with chants of “Obama, Obama” coming from those presumably frustrated over being denied entrance. Clinton ended the day in Santa Barbara after a full day in California, stopping in Compton and Northridge before making her way up the coast – “Being in Santa Barbara is a fabulous, fabulous way to end this day,” she said.
The event was supposed to get underway at 6:45 p.m., but those in the media were informed around 7 p.m. that the New York Senator had just boarded a plane in Burbank, and wouldn’t be arriving at UCSB until about 8 p.m. In the meantime, signs were passed out and theme music – Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police, to name a few – were played while the crowd did the wave and sat waiting. As promised, the senator emerged from behind the blue curtain backdrop just two minutes after 8 p.m. to a roaring crowd equipped with cell phones and cameras, forcing many to stand on chairs just to get a glimpse or a clear shot of Clinton.
The former First Lady holds a significant lead in California, according to a recent poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times, which showed the New York Senator ahead of Obama,, 47 percent to 31 percent. Obama spent Wednesday in California campaigning, while Clinton’s stop at UCSB marked at her fourth at a UC campus in an effort to reach out to young voters – an area in which she is hurting. UCSB has one of the highest percentages of registered voters in its student body out of any campus in the state. After losing the Iowa caucus to Obama, Clinton came back to win the New Hampshire primary the following week. Looming ahead for the Democrats is the Nevada caucus Saturday, and Super Tuesday, February 5, when 24 states (including California), will hold their primaries, possibly determining who will ultimately win the party’s nomination.
Clinton didn’t mention any of her opponents – either Democrat or Republican – until she was asked a question about the difference between her and Obama. After expressing “enormous regard and admiration” for her largest threat, she mentioned a quote from Obama in which he had said that he sees the president as a person who is responsible for casting vision. But Clinton said the president has to be both the CEO and the COO of the country, and run the government and maintain the economy. “I don’t think there’s a contradiction between experience and change,” she said. “They go hand-in-hand.”
And while, for the most part, Clinton laid off talking about her opponents, she didn’t have any problem digging into current President George W. Bush’s administration. The election is a good way of making “it clear to the Bush Administration they are on their way out,” she said. Adding that the country is tired of being “governed by fear” and the “fatalism” Bush has promoted in America. “I can’t be anymore outraged by Bush. You couldn’t make this stuff up,” she said, referring to Bush’s attempt to enter into a long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government without first getting approval from Congress. She then added a barb at Dick Cheney, saying “our vice president shot someone in the face.”
In her stump speech, Clinton told the crowd to imagine what they wanted the country to look like in 25 years, and then took them on a journey through different issues and topics, including the Iraq War, education, healthcare, and more. “What I want to do is not just imagine, but ask you to help make that a reality,” she said, adding she had a hope for a more peaceful and prosperous world. In 25 years, she said, she hopes when students are looking back to 2008 in their history classes, they won’t even understand what an uninsured American was, and that in 25 years the doors to colleges in the U.S. will be open to any student who wants to go, without a heaping of loans standing in their way.
After her speech, she took several questions from the audience, touching on immigration, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the economy, and more. One student asked Clinton to name one way young people can make a difference now. Clinton said that becoming a part of the energy and global warming revolution would make the biggest difference. “Legislation won’t make a difference if people don’t change their habits,” she said. The revolution will also lead to more jobs and a more robust economy, she predicted, much like the race for the moon did in the 1960s and the Information Age did in the 1990s.
After questions, Clinton spent a good ten minutes handshaking and taking pictures before being whisked away to a dark colored Dodge Caravan with tinted windows. The former First Lady was led out of campus by a Highway Patrol unit and followed by a Chevrolet Suburban and a Santa Barbara Airbus carrying the traveling press, leaving behind an empty gym, and a muddy, trashed knoll where supporters had been waiting to get in to the event.
Many local politicians were at the event, front and center to take in Clinton’s speech, including Santa Barbara City Councilmember Grant House, Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, and School Board trustee Annette Cordero. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a former state assemblywoman now running for state senator, was dancing to the music while waiting for Clinton to arrive. She left impressed with the former First Lady. “She was very clear and thoughtful and had an inspiring level of confidence,” Jackson said.
Former 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose, who leads the Santa Barbarans for Hillary and was one of the organizers of the UCSB event, said the night was terrific. “[Clinton] resonated with the students very much, and as you can see, there was a great depth of support.”
In addition to Clinton’s stop last night, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, both Democrats, made stops in Santa Barbara in September, while former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, has made two trips to the Santa Barbara area over the past year, the most recent being a quick stop at the newly renovated Joe’s Cafe on State Street after a private fundraiser at the Biltmore in Montecito.