Obama and McCain Create Chaos at Columbia

Thousands come to see the presidential candidates discuss public service.

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Republican presidential candidate, Sen., John McCain, R-Ariz., greets Democratic presidential candidate, Sen., Barack Obama, D-Ill., in a forum on national service at Columbia University.

Much like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit in September 2007, the affectionately named Obamacain event at Columbia University wreaked havoc on normal life on the New York campus Thursday. Republican and Democratic hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama convened on campus on the seven-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks to talk about the importance of public service, the Columbia Spectator reports.

More than 7,500 students (there are 6,400 undergrads at Columbia, but I guess grad students are interested in politics, too) jammed the center of campus to hear the two speak at the rare bipartisan event. Also in attendance were Usher, James Franco, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (yes, the one from Home Improvement). The diligent bloggers at Columbia did their bit to liveblog the event, which was briefly marred by technical difficulties, hilariously chronicled by the student journalists. Here are some highlights from the J-school-run blog (Obama and McCain at Columbia), Bwog, and IvyGate, who all do their best to write about each other. How meta.

Obama and McCain at Columbia

  • 7:08 p.m.: Todd and I were just talking about the scene on campus for today's event and he's pretty surprised by the difference between this morning and right now. Columbia is packed with people, protesters and students outside watching the event on the steps of Low Library.
  • 7:49 p.m.: Toby Maguire just spoke. Todd does not like actors. One wonders how appropriate it is to have Spiderman speaking at such an event.
  • 8:50 p.m.: Habiba Nosheen, who is watching the speeches outside, got this quote from Columbia Alum Shelly Bendavid: "If McCain went last, everyone would have left by now."
  • 9:05 p.m.: Spotted by Greg Bocquet: During the commercial break, audience members were crowding to the front of the aisles to snap pictures of Obama, completely ignoring superstars Usher, Queen Noor of Jordan, Tobey Maguire, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • Bwog

    • 5:32 p.m.: The mic keeps going out but Bwog heard the phrases "community lunch" and "not to be too corny, but to quote Martin Luther King . . ."
    • 5:53 p.m.: New Chris Colombo Kevin Schollenberg is sporting very dapper plaid suit. Let the record state that he is better dressed than Usher.
    • 7:06 p.m.: Ooh, we're starting, we're starting! Thank you to our sponsors, Target and Time magazine, and others!
    • 7:30 p.m.: Shocking reports from the unruly lawn: the live feed has cut out! There are boos and demands for the Jumbotron to be turned up.
    • 7:40 p.m.: Overheard: "Let's drink every time they say 'service.' " Please don't kill yourselves.
    • 7:53 p.m.: The screen is gone again. You can actually feel panic. Everyone is silent but screaming on the inside.
    • 8:0 p.m.: Everyone in the country is frustrated with the Republican government. McCain, who is a Republican but also a Maverick, agrees.
    • 8:12 p.m.: McCain made a mumbly joke about having a terrible temper.
    • 8:17 p.m.: He just insulted Target! Target is a sponsor.
    • 8:22 p.m.: Woodruff brings up Iraq, uh oh. This could get partisan.
    • 8:33 p.m.: According to McCain: McCain:Goldwater::Obama:JFK
    • 8:34 p.m.: Bwogger Downie reports that the Steps crowd boos Palin's name.
    • 8:51 p.m..: It's Obama! Bwog can hear the cheers from outside.
    • 9:19 p.m.: Stengel was asking Obama questions off-camera, about service. Is this allowed? Why does Rick Stengel think the rules don't apply to him?
    • 9:32 p.m.: Uh, oh. Palin question. Was Palin being unfair when she said those things about community organizers? Obama is talking about small time mayors. Obama was "surprised" by several remarks around "community organizing and belittling it."
    • 9:34 p.m.: Working as a community organizer was the best education Obama ever had. No offense to Lee Bollinger, he hedges.
    • 9:41 p.m.: "Change happens from the bottom up."
    • 9:41 p.m.: It's over. There's a stampede to the fences!
    • IvyGate

      • 6:30 p.m.: The boring Teach for America people have finally stopped blathering on, and it looks like there's going to be a 30 minute break before the speeches begin. Cue long lines at every campus restroom . . .
      • 7:29 p.m.: The jumbotron has died! Repeat! The jumbotron has died!
      • 7:31 p.m.: LADIES AND GENTS, WE HAVE SOUND! and black and white (no, not the candidates, I mean the TV reception).
      • 7:37 p.m.: OHEMGEE IT'S TOBEY MAGUIRE! /fangirl 8:16: Oh no he di;int! McCain is talking about faith in government. His voice is actually trembling as he mentions the Resurrection Baptist Church . . . my Jewish relatives are shuddering.
      • 8:50 p.m.: Aaaand McCain just winked into the camera like a creepy old john.
      • 8:59 p.m.: Obama just announced that he wants to reduce dependency on foreign oil, and some girl just screamed like a 12-year-old fan at a Jonas Brothers concert.
      • 9:41 p.m.: What? It's over? Over? But . . . Obama, come back! Noooooo.