John and I met in San Francisco last night while I was waiting to take the ferry over to Oakland. When I was walking up to the ferry dock, a phalanx of police motorcycles appeared, followed by a convoy of black Chevy Suburbans. Several dozen ferry passengers were being held back by cops, and they already knew why: John Kerry, on a California campaign swing, was in one of the Suburbans, and the ferry at the dock was reserved for a trip he was taking over to a rally Jerry Brown was hosting in the East Bay. Sure enough, Kerry got out of one of the vehicles, and as a Secret Service agent motioned to a guy near me to take his hands out of his pockets, he waved and walked down to the boat, which waited for some staffers and reporters before pulling out of its berth and heading for Oakland. Then our ferry came in. It was only after climbing aboard that I realized how heavy the security was. A couple of Coast Guard helicopters patrolled overhead; at least two Coast Guard Zodiacs, complete with .50-caliber machineguns mounted in the bows, monitored the route across the bay; and a larger cutter was standing by, too.
We passed Kerry’s boat en route, and when we arrived on the other side, the fleet of Suburbans, and a smaller group of Oakland motorcycle cops was waiting.
It turned out that our trip was delayed about five, maybe ten, minutes in getting under way. Even that little bit of a delay prompted a lot of grousing from some of the passengers: “I’m not voting for him now,” one younger guy muttered. “John Edwards just rides around on a bus. He doesn’t need all this bullshit just to travel around.” And as we got off our ferry, one of the crew said, “Oakland that way — your tax dollars over there” — gesturing toward Kerry’s boat, which was approaching.
It’s the bitch and moan of democracy.