GOP visits “Smalltown USAâ€

By Rory McCarty

Senior Reporter

At Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights on Friday, a rally was held for supporters of John McCain. McCain and his recently announced running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, gave speeches at the rally along with a host of McCain’s allies, including Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

When the staff at Freedom Hill began letting people into the rally at 3 p.m., the line already stretched out into the parking lot and weaved back around the outside of the amphitheatre.

Also outside of the venue, protesters held signs with sayings like “Support Our Troops, Not the War” and “Out of a Job Yet? Vote McCain” on them. Cars that headed to the McCain rally honked and shouted at the protesters in disagreement.

Rev. Rich Peacock, organizer for the group 11th Hour for Peace, was amongst the protesters. He said he thinks that America has had enough of war.

“If the escalation is going so well, why aren’t we bringing troops home faster?” said Peacock, regarding the military surge.

The times have been particularly tough on Michigan, Peacock added. “For seven years Michigan has had no help from Washington D.C.”

Leigh Fifelski, of Ferndale, representing the protest group Progress Michigan, said that having McCain as president would be bad for Michigan’s economy. Progress Michigan wants to educate people about McCain’s record on outsourcing.

“We’re also afraid that McCain will affect the jobs of the future for Michigan students,” Fifelski said. As she spoke, a car of people shouting at the protesters drove by holding a G.O.P. banner out its windows, albeit holding it backwards.

By the beginning of the rally, the crowd inside of Freedom Hill was already overflowing with excitement. Rows of people filling the seats began chanting the candidates’ names, waving “McCain/Palin” signs and hitting together noisemakers. It was a true pep rally, complete with high school cheerleaders and marching bands working up the audience.

Cox was the first speaker to take the stage and began speaking about his time as a marine and how he looked up to McCain as a hero. He repeatedly honored the sacrifices made by war veterans throughout his speech.

“There are those who talk about peace, and those who actually make peace,” Cox said, “and there’s no one in the world who’s ever made more peace than the armed forces of the United States of America.”

He criticized Barack Obama for not being supportive enough of the war in Iraq and not voting for the military surge. “Those who worship at the false god of peace only lead to appeasement,” he said.

Lt. Col. Digger O’Dell, a retired marine and Vietnam prisoner of war, took the stage later, but joked that Cox had stolen his speech. “He is probably more knowledgeable on John than I am, and I was in the prison camps with him.”

O’Dell talked about McCain’s refusal to return home from the prison camps until all the other soldiers could come home as well.  He went into detail about McCain’s time being tortured and put in solitary confinement.

“They may have broken a few bones, but John McCain was never broken,” O’Dell said.

O’Dell said that he trusted McCain to lead so much that, “If he told me to go jump off that building because there’s a logical reason to do so, I might just go do that.”

After much anticipation and fanfare by the captivated audience, McCain and Palin finally arrived at the Freedom Hill stage accompanied by the song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Palin was the first to speak.

“We went straight from the convention to Smalltown, USA,” Palin said.

Palin used much of her speech to attack Barack Obama’s record on things like the war in Iraq. “Our opponent has said that the surge has succeeded in ways no one predicted, but there is one man who predicted it and he’s standing next to me.”

She talked of her own record as a political maverick by getting rid of things that were unnecessary, like the governor’s private jet and chef.

When, at last, it was time for McCain to take the stage, he said of Palin, “I’m so happy to be introduced by her, and I can’t wait to introduce her to Washington D.C.”

Among McCain’s talking points were his plans to take on pork barrel politics and special interest groups in Washington. “Never again will we spend $3 million to study the DNA of berries in Montana.”

McCain also laid out his plans to have energy independence from foreign oil within ten years. Among his energy plans were those to get cheap nuclear power and oil from offshore drilling.

McCain concluded with a final bit of straight talk: “I need to win the State of Michigan.”

He added, “I will never let you down, and I will always put my country first.”