Erin Kotecki Vest Meets Senator Barack Obama, Part Two

Standing in the hallway of Roseburg High School, flanked by Secret Service, I made small talk with the local reporters.

‘Medford tv station? Ah, that’s north right?’

‘Oh, you get two questions with Senator Obama, that’s great for local tv.’

Then a press aide of the Senator’s pointed at me and said ‘Erin this is our web guy, you guys can chat. The rest of you-two questions, that’s it. You set up, you ask, you break it down and we go to the next one. -Except for you guys (pointing to me again).’

The ‘web-guy’ then looks at me and starts to mic me ‘yeah, the blogher women get the special campaign treatment.’

And the hallway falls silent as every local reporter in the greater Roseburg, OR area turns to look.

I smirk a bit, shrug my shoulders, and wave.

I’m such a smart ass. At least I stopped short of sticking out my tongue.

The press aide then tells the entire group ‘the Senator will come into the room and get situated, I would appreciate no questions or cameras as he walks in-you’ll have your chance inside.’

‘Web-guy’ then pulls me into the room and asks me if I like the way the backdrop looks. I shrug again and ask if we can move the flags, maybe pull out some chairs, etc.’

…and in walks Senator Barack Obama.

Noticing I was the only face he didn’t recognize in the room he came straight over to me-shook my hand and said ‘what’s your name ?’

‘Erin, I’m with’

‘Yes, the women bloggers’

And with that web-guy continued to talk to me about lighting and blue drapes and chairs. I nodded a lot and said ‘I better go back in the hallway’ and walked past secret service guarding the door and into the glaring eyes of a dozen or so local reporters.

One-by-one they went in with their crews. As the last one walked in, Treina (the makeup artist) and exchanged glances. We are next.

The crew came out of the classroom and we grabbed out bags to walk in.

But no one was calling us in, like they had the others before us.

So we stood, bags in hand, and shifted nervously.

Why aren’t they calling us in? Are they setting something else up? Are there important campaign strategy things happening in there I want to hear? How close to the classroom door can I get before secret service tackles me? Is my hair still totally flat from this heat? It is…damn.

And out into the hallway walks Senator Obama. To his right is the rest of the high school, to the left is Treina and I and a secret service agent.

Senator Obama once again sees us-people he does not recognize- and walks right on over. ‘Hello again, Erin, right-and this is…’

‘Treina,’ says Treina who just 20 second earlier had been pulled aside by an agent who explained to her the Senator’s skin in the event he needed a touch up.

‘Treina-Treina nice to meet you.’

Then the Senator explained to us, as he rolled up his shirt sleeves, that he needed to use the rest room and would be in for the interview in a minute. We smiled and nodded and he turned and walked down the hallway.

Yes, Barack Obama just told me had had to go to the bathroom was really all I could think. However at this point, seemed entirely normal. And I had to REMIND myself it was, in fact, Barack Obama who just excused himself because it seemed just like any other guy.

I was officially, now, no longer nervous to sit down with the Senator. I was, however, nervous about getting through all these questions.

I sat down in the interview chair and flipped through my notecards again. And again. And again. Senator Obama walked in, and I stood (no idea…felt like I should?) and greeted him again as he sat next to me. He began to get his own mic on and said ‘hope I’m not being too revealing’ as he unbuttoned a button or two to get the mic to lay right.

Hope I’m not being too revealing???!!! I averted my eyes. I’m laughing as I type this but as soon as he even JOKED about it I was like ‘OH. MY. GAWD. I MUST NOT LOOK I MUST NOT LOOK I MUST NOT LOOK.’ And I turned my head.

As my 3-year old would say ‘Mama he needs his PRIVACY!’

Then Obama’s press aide knelt under us.

He had a timer or a phone with a timer. Or maybe a recorder? Whatever it was it kept time and he said, ‘ok 10 minutes’ and web-guy said ‘whenever you’re ready’ and I launched into my 12 questions.

The next 10 minutes I was entirely focused on the Senator. I wanted to move a bit faster, but once we got going he seemed to shorten his answers a bit. I could tell time was getting short as we talked about health care because the aide kneeling below us was shifting. A lot. I wanted to look down to see him give me a time count -hold up a finger for 1 minute or something-but I didn’t want to break eye contact with Senator Obama.

Instinct told me to move onto Economy, and quick. And sure enough once we finished the economy question-

“Last Question!” came from the guy on the floor.

The interview ended, we shook hands again, and we posed for a photo. Arms around eachother and smiling I told him BlogHer and it’s 9 million readers would be very pleased he took the time to answer our questions and I thanked him again for the 5th time.

I then grabbed Treina’s camera and snapped a shot of the makeup artist and the Senator.

While he was walking out the door I said ‘Good Luck on Tuesday’ and he stopped, turned and said ‘thank you very much.’

Treina and I then quietly gathered our belongings. I let BlogHer know the tape was in my hands, and we walked in near silence to the parking lot.

Inside the car we shut the doors, turned to look at each-other, and screamed our ever-loving heads off like teenagers.

I love being a blogger. I love being a blogher. I love that after I interviewed the man who very well could make history I could tell you this story, and scream and cry. Years ago I could never have done that.

After interviewing mayors and governors and celebrities, I would tell you stories-but never personal ones about how I FELT while it was happening. I would probably tell you how with morning sickness I nearly threw up on Governor Gray Davis. How interviewing Tom Hanks left me with the impression he really IS a nice guy. I would tell you how a former mayor of LA still calls me Erica and how another former mayor is notorious for spitting while he talks. I may have even told you the story of how Jeb Bush snarked on me. But you’d never know of the pride or joy or excitement or nerves I felt while conducting those interviews.

Now I can tell you. And it feels good.

Long live citizen journalism.

Erin Kotecki Vest Meets Senator Barack Obama, Part One

There is a story behind the BlogHer interview you probably don’t know. Several, actually.

-I wasn’t supposed to be doing the interview.

-I shopped at the Eugene, Oregon Target at 8pm Friday night for camera-ready clothes, notecards, and hairspray.

-I met the Senator from Illinois in the hallway of Roseburg High School while he was on his way to use the rest room. I know this. He told me so.

It all started somewhere around Wednesday when I had a good idea BlogHer was about to land this interview. BlogHer contributing editor Kim Pearson would be asking the questions and I would be producing. Which means I could be in the room but on the sidelines, hopefully meeting Obama but not worried about the pressures of on camera.

Friday afternoon, en route to Eugene, I got a call:

‘Kim’s flight is delayed, she may not make it out. You need to prepare to do this interview.’

My mind switched gears and I started to plan.

How well did I know the questions?

What clothes did I bring?

Crap I haven’t had my hair done in weeks.

Oh my gawd I haven’t had a pedicure in longer.

What if I ask all of them by category and don’t make it to the last category?

Should I split them up? Jump from Iraq to the Economy and back?

I’m very sure my roots are showing.

I wonder if they have a mall near my hotel.

I need to review those questions closer.

I then landed in Eugene and the status of just who was interviewing the Senator was still up in the air. Or on the ground in Newark, as the case may be.

I decided to head to the nearest Target and see if I couldn’t figure out an outfit and a strategy for getting through 12 policy questions in 7-10 minutes on the campaign schedule.

I wondered if those 7-10 minutes included him getting set up with a mic? Us chatting quickly before hand to make sure we were ready? Did it start when he sat down and tape rolled? Did it start when he walked in the room? What if he was late?

I clung to the campaign’s promise of 10 minutes and plotted my question priority as I rifled through solid colored shirts at Target that were NOT white or black (you know, like everything in my suitcase).

Throwing things in the cart I moved on to shoes (I had black shoes and flip flops) while I went over all 12 questions again in my head, reminding myself to google when I got back to the hotel ‘Obama stance on public transportation.’

I didn’t want to prioritize the blogher community questions with everything he’s already said on record. I wanted to at least try to get him to speak about some of the issues we don’t hear every day.

I then grabbed a pack of waters and some trail mix, knowing Treina ( the make up artist) and myself might be trapped in Roseburg all day with who knows what available. I also grabbed a bottle of wine and an extra pack of gum.

This interview was not a surprise investigation by us. We’ve had these questions on the record since the BlogHer conference last July. So I knew this was not going to be a ‘follow up question’ or ‘on the spot attack’ type of interview. That helped. Back in the day I would have been plotting 40 follow ups and 40 different takes on those follow ups depending on his answers. This was a simple Q & A of well known questions. So while I was back in my hotel plotting just how to do anything with my root-showing, not hair-cut in 6 weeks, hair -it occurred to me the best thing to do was to prioritize each question in each category and go with the flow of the interview and hope I didn’t have to cut him off.

I’m sorry Senator but you are being entirely too long winded and I only have 10 minutes here, so let’s move on.

Then at 10pm pacific Kim called from Salt Lake City. She was turning back around to Newark, and I was sprawled on my hotel room bed-furiously writing BlogHer’s questions on notecards.

I went to sleep knowing I would wake up Saturday morning, drive an hour and a half with my semi-polished toes and stringy-hair, and sit down and chat with the man who could very well be our next president.

I called my family. I sent out a few emails.

Then I quietly sobbed in my stale, hotel pillow.

I cried for joy at my opportunity, sadness over the stress I knew my kids and family were dealing with, and I cried to relieve myself of any emotion I had over what was about to happen.

Part Two, tomorrow. I scream, I cry more, and I meet a senator.

I Remember Mama Voting

*crossposted at

My mother has never been the most political person in our family. Pregnant with me at 18-years of age, her life was preoccupied with things like bassinets and receiving blankets instead of the economy and war.

However it was my mother who wrote the note to my high school principal on MY 18th birthday excusing me from class so I could go register to vote.

It was also my mother who encouraged me to get involved in anything and everything regardless of what our Catholic neighborhood shunned or what our relatives said.

She has always voted, but it has been this election that has her arguing back at my aunt who calls to rag on Democrats or my uncle who makes fun of the candidates. It is this election she rings me during the ABC debate to YELL about flagpins and other ‘really stupid’ questions.

I LOVE that my Mom calls to talk about the election much more vocally than she has EVER done. More importantly, she is CONFIDENT in what she says and debates.

Makes me proud.

My mother’s political influence has always been one of support for my beliefs and has turned into a dual education on policy and issues. Her political world has been expanded by mine, but I am reminded at how very different our 18th birthdays were-and how far we’ve come.

As part of ACORN’s ‘I Remember Mama Voting’ project BlogHers and others are weighing in this Mother’s Day.

Contributing Editor Kim Pearson writes, “But the most important political lessons were about my African legacy. She showed me South Africa, told me about apartheid, and said, ‘Always remember, we will never be free until South Africa is free.’ She introduced me to real Africans, made sure I read about the new countries emerging, and about their efforts to press their cause at the United Nations. All of this while we tracked each success and failure of the civil rights struggle, and talked about whether black women had any business getting involved in feminism.”

Contributing Editor Suzanne Reisman says, “My mom is not as involved in political causes as I am, but my family has always been Democrats surrounded by a Republican community. I just always knew that Republicans were not for us, although when I was older, I remember overhearing my father telling our neighbor a bizarre joke about my mom voting for Ronald Reagan because she thought Jimmy Carter had bad legs. I was utterly horrified at the thought. How could my mom vote for a Republican?!?! Fortunately, when I asked her about it, she had no idea what I was talking about, but it was my first exposure to the stereotypical notion that women don’t vote on the issues, but rather on a candidate’s attractiveness. I thought that was the dumbest thing any woman could do, and swore I would follow my mom’s example and always vote for the candidate who would help ‘the people.’ Thanks, Mom!”

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan writes, “I remember the first political discussion I ever had with my mother. We had been in a waiting room with many magazines, and I was too young to read any of them, but I did notice covers with horribly graphic photos of men at war. It happened to be towards the end of the Vietnam War, and I asked my mother, ‘Why is there war?’ She told me that people don’t want to be at war, the leaders of the countries make the wars. That was when I realized women were not in positions of political power. Then I said, ‘We should make women the leaders of all the countries in the world, and then there would never be any wars.’ My mother told me that sounded like a good idea, but it probably would never happen. My response was, ‘Then those men leaders who want a war, should fight it themselves.’ I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand today, how war solves any problems, neither does my mother.”

Rontun writes, “No, I don’t have any photographic evidence to prove that Satan’s inferno suddenly has been transformed into a winter wonderland, nor am I meaning to suggest that the threat of global warming has abated. But it’s evident to me that there has been a climate shift of cosmic proportions.

Let me explain. My mother, an octogenarian who’s voted Republican her entire life except in 1960 when she elected to support JFK because he shared her Roman Catholic faith, revealed to me on the telephone yesterday that she’s voting in Kentucky’s upcoming primary for Barack Obama!

This is no minor transformation, and it began as a direct consequence of the Bush administration’s war policies combined with the emergence in power of the evangelical community.”

L.K. Campbell says, “One of the biggest political arguments that I remember between Mama and Daddy happened during the 1972 presidential campaign. Daddy never voted for a Republican. If our German shepherd dog ran against the Republican incumbent, Lady would’ve gotten Daddy’s vote.
When he announced his intention to vote for George McGovern, Mama couldn’t believe it. Even though she was a registered Democrat, she was way too conservative to vote for McGovern.
‘You mean to tell me that you’re going to vote for that hippie-loving radical?’ she asked.”

Many of us in some way, shape, or form have been influenced by our mother’s or grandmother’s or stepmother’s or a friend’s mother’s political voice. Share your story this Mother’s Day-and don’t forget to vote.

Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog.

Hugging, not kicking, My HRC supporting Friends

I’m not really sure how to make up with my Hillary Clinton supporting friends.

I got damn mad at them. They got damn mad at me.

Even when we tried to be civil, we were gritting our teeth and muttering swear words.

I accused their candidate of turning GOP. Of dirty tricks. Of lies. Of stealing delegates. Of race baiting.

They called me a cult member said my candidate was inexperienced, a dreamer, filled with talk and no substance. They called my candidate unpatriotic and went after those in his past and present.

I got angry enough to spew very hate-filled speech post South Carolina.

I’m still not sorry.

I’m pretty sure they are not either.

So now what?

Do we hug it out? Because really-that’s all I have left.

I currently have nothing nice to say about what went on between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. I can’t yet blog about uniting the Clinton and Obama voters or give the ‘let’s all just go against McCain together’ pitch.

I still want to yell and scream.  I want the former President Bill Clinton to explain himself. I want Senator Clinton to tell me why she got so damn right winged in her fear-mongering rhetoric.

I realize those answers are not coming.

I realize we have to move forward to beat John McCain.

But I have NOTHING to get us moving on this immediately.

Except hug.

Weak? Maybe.

But trust me I’ve gone through every option I can think of -it’s all I have got.

You know how you have those crazy relatives in your family you will never, EVER agree with and fight with all the time? You get SOOOOO MAD at the things they do, yet…they are family. And somehow you hug and move on.

I’m hugging my HRC supporting friends because I don’t know what else to do.

And I really don’t want to kick them.

Or do I?

I do. I still want to kick them.

But I won’t.

Free hugs.

Who wants one?


I don’t know too many kids who like getting shots. I don’t know too many adults who like getting shots. So when the time comes to pack up the van and take the kids to their 3 and 5-year old check-up, I am filled with anxiety and they are blissfully ignorant as to what is about to happen.

Sneak attack.

Sometimes it just has to be done.

For the greater good, it was better for everyone the children did not know, until moments before getting stuck, that needles were coming.

I rarely use the sneak attack move. In extreme cases ONLY would I ever advocate the sneak attack move.

However sometimes it MUST be done.

Senator Barack Obama needs to bust out a sneak attack move.

The unexpected, from left field, swift, shocking, borderline-evil sneak attack.

It’s for the greater good.

If Obama does not employ this parental and strategic hit, I can guarantee Senator Clinton will continue to act just like my children would have, had they known those immunizations were coming. They would have begged, stalled, attempted to change my mind, stalled some more, lied to get out of it, stalled again, and then odds are I’d have to carry one or both of them to the car in tears as I tried to tell them everything would be ok.

In the end they KNOW they are getting those shots. They realize it is GOING TO HAPPEN, yet they would do their best to wiggle and manipulate to stop the inevitable.

The sneak attack makes it easier on everyone. It saves myself the pain of going through the horrific process of getting to the doctor and it saves them the anxiety and desperation.

Senator Barack Obama the time is NOW for your sneak attack.

I know you have one.

Save us ALL the pain of going through this another day.

Senator Clinton is facing the inevitable and handling it like a spoiled child. You can feel free to let her know she will not be the nominee, but don’t expect this to be over until Summer. With more stalling, and lies, and desperation.

Or you sneak attack.

Cold cocked. Blindsided. Needle in arm before she knows what’s hit her.

There will be screams.

There will be tears.

Then we will all get on with our lives.

The Story I Didn’t Tell You

On Super Tuesday, February 5th 2008, I drove to Central Los Angeles (with pneumonia) and interviewed Congresswoman Maxine Waters for

During the course of the interview we discussed why she was supporting Senator Hillary Clinton and I shared with her the story of my very stubborn grandfather who, no joke here, thought I would grow up and be a ‘fine secretary’ one day. I thought it was an important point to make; a 90-year old man with some very ‘traditional’ ideas was going to vote for a woman. I’d like to think it meant progress.

What I didn’t tell the viewer, or the Congresswoman, was that in the same breathe my grandfather championed Hillary, he called Senator Obama (and I’m paraphrasing) slimy like that Jesse Jackson and a typical black politician. Mind you all of this information came to me through my Dad, who I am guessing censored.

While a 90-year old, former Chrysler worker, blue-collar, union, grandfather being racist may not be all that shocking, what happened in my mind is – I just shrugged it off and accepted it as life.

In my mind, I filed it in the ‘some people are just like that’ category and moved on.

Now I’m not saying I was going to give my grandfather a call and lecture him, as he is not always very clear on thought these days, but I could have at least processed the gravity of what I had just witnessed.

My grandfather let go of sexism (sort of) before he let go of his racism.

I say ‘sort of’ because I can’t seem to shake conversations I’ve had over the years. The ones where he would be proud to the point of playing tapes for his friends of my radio news days, yet convinced I should be having more than two children.

I’m also very used to racism in my own family. My childhood memories are littered with my uncle screaming N***** RUN! at the tv while watching football. My cousin knew she was being a rebel by putting a poster of Michael Jordan on her bedroom wall.

As I watch the race issue continue to unfold in this election, I wonder how many more grandfathers and uncles are out there. The ones who would congratulate me on ‘marrying well’ and then decide voting for a woman was a much better option than voting for a black man.

I don’t have the knowledge or the expertise to go into all the reasons why these things are the way they are, but I am watching poll numbers for Senator Obama dip since the Wright flap. It’s beyond discouraging. It leaves me without much pride for this nation. It is starting to make me very angry that it matters.

God Damn America, indeed.

There. I said it. Let’s see the outrage. Let’s see the hate. Tell me how unpatriotic I am and how I’m evil.

Let me say it louder


Prove me wrong. Show me you’re not a bunch of racist idiots.

Don’t let them fool you-the Rev. Wright fiasco is ENTIRELY about race.

How many of you have been to a black church? Show of hands please. How many of you know or even TRY to know the reasons for anything that *may* happen inside a black congregation? How many of you have seen or read the ENTIRE sermon?

I am not an African-American. I am not a minority. I do not even pretend to know the experience. But at the very least I have attempted to educate myself. At the very least I have stepped outside of my safe suburb and stood at First AME in Los Angeles.

Rev. Chip Murray, who has since retired, was one of the most inspirational men I have EVER met in my life. I have struggled with religion since I was a child and I can honestly say the ONLY person who ever came close to bringing me to God was a black preacher in Los Angeles.

That particular church had members doing and saying exactly the words of Rev. Wright and this white girl was always welcome in those doors. Welcomed with hugs and kisses and invitations to picnics after services.

In the end I have to believe that if my 90-year old grandfather can make just enough progress to vote for a woman, the rest of you-who have far longer lives ahead of you and far more clear thoughts left, can go all the way and make enough progress to vote for a person of color.

It is time. Hell, even Dave Winer admits he’s racist and voting for Obama.

The discussions are happening. Be real. Get yourself involved in them. Talk about it, write about it, be honest about it ALL.

It is time for this nation to get over this, or at the very least make an honest effort to try. You can’t do that if you’re afraid to ask or to speak up or to learn.

If not, we are a damned America, for certain.

5 Years Too Many

My son was born March 24th, 2003.

5 days before the life changing birth of my first child, the war in Iraq began.

Every phone call of congratulations mixed with worry and sadness. Every moment of joy, marred by CNN in the background. Every visitor with gifts and head shaking as they talked of the news.

Every single moment of my son’s life we have been at war.

His uncle is on his second tour in Iraq. Not first, second.

His cousins are stationed in Germany with their Mother and a new sister who has yet to meet her Dad.

I’ve spent five years grabbing the remote to change the channel quickly before little eyes see burned out convoys and dead bodies on the news.

I’ve spent five years biting my tongue as family marches off to serve.

I’ve spent five years looking at photos, always seeing the background before the bouncing baby.

Five. Years. Too. Many.

We will be* in Northridge tomorrow for a candle light vigil marking this anniversary. You can join us, or use your voice and blog.

*edited at 4pm march 19th-smalled child is passed out on my living room floor. Not sure we’re going to make the vigil. Please join the blogswarm.

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