03/17/13 Ten years ago today, St. Patrick’s Day 2003, I photographed the American Ireland Fund Gala as they presented rock star Bono with an International Humanitarian Award. The black tie party was held at the National Building Museum, which is a huge venue used for a lot of posh events.
Bono was funny and effusive in his praise for those in attendance who’d helped him in his efforts to erase Third World debt. He hailed future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “a sexy woman” and noted then Sen. John Kerry’s “Irish-Jewish connection.” He recalled his first meeting with Sen. Orrin Hatch at which he urged the songwriting senator to boost his singing career by changing his name to Johnny Trapdoor.
But the real showstopper of the evening was President Bush. The party came to a halt and everyone watched the president’s image on gigantic screens as he delivered his ‘Get Out Of Dodge’ speech to Saddam Hussein. The ultimatum that Saddam and his two sons leave Iraq immediately was, of course, ignored just as Saddam had ignored President George H. W. Bush’s ultimatum that Iraqi forces leave Kuwait prior to the start of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Operation ‘Shock and Awe’ began two days later. I expect most of the people in that room thought that the invasion of Iraq would be a repeat of the First Gulf War, with a short battle and mopping up and then everybody would be back in a couple months.
‘Get Out Of Dodge’ speech
Five years ago today, St. Patrick’s Day 2008, I was in Scranton, PA at the Lackawanna Station Hotel photographing then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech to the Society of Irish Women. This was at a point in the Democratic primary race when Obama and Hillary Clinton were still slugging it out and the notion at the time was that he was stealing her thunder by coming to Scranton – thought to be Hillary country – and speaking to a women’s group to boot.
And the crowd went wild. People in the audience were wearing “O apostrophe bama” buttons. Obama spoke about his Irish heritage and was enthusiastically received – to the point where women were standing on chairs to get an up close glimpse at him as he left the room.
I remember him saying that he’d forgotten to wear a green tie that day so he switched ties with his Body Man, Reggie Love.
After Obama’s speech ended, I noticed famed newspaperman Jimmy Breslin standing by himself in the ballroom surveying the scene. I introduced myself and we struck up a long conversation about the nature of the Obama campaign and then politics in general. Then we talked about Queens and about New York City in general. He asked where I was living and when I told him DC, he made a face like he’d just tasted something awful and said, “Why aren’t you living in New York?”