By Ashley Harrell
I headed to Tosca for the debate last night expecting the dining room to be buzzing with Obama campaign workers. But when I arrived, there were just a couple dozen people perched quietly at the bar and in red cushy chairs beneath the golden glow of lampshade chandeliers. All eyes were glued to the big screen at the back of the bar, and as the debate got underway, the atmosphere of the room began its inevitable and inertial descent into hostility.
When Palin declined to address the (lack of) regulation on Wall Street or health care, claiming she was “still on the tax thing,” the room divided itself into three groups: laughers, hissers, and those with faces in hands. When Palin again redirected the debate from the mortgage crisis to her record on energy, a fourth group – the “oh, come ons!” – emerged. “She’s evading what she doesn’t want to talk about,” said a short-haired woman in a flowing teal scarf, shaking her head.
As for the reaction to Biden, loud applause followed his claim that John McCain wouldn’t even sit down with the government of Spain. An even louder one came after Biden’s choke-up when he told the audience he knew what it was like being a parent who wasn’t sure if his child would make it.
“I thought Biden was wonderful, said Leslie Kaye, a Tosca cocktail waitress of 22 years. “He sounded very intelligent. Very believable. Passionate.” Kaye sat at a back booth with a group of North Beach players including the owner of Tosca, Jeannette Etheredge, the owner of the House, Angela Ctse, entertainment lawyer Liz Hasse, and one-time Teatro Zinzani performer Joe Orrach.
When the debate was over, they took turns voicing criticisms of Palin – she didn’t answer questions directly or with facts, Alaska was very sparsely populated and far away, it seemed telling that Palin was only meeting Biden for the first time. Ctse brought up that Palin had much less experience than Biden, which presented her with the greater challenge, and the rest of the booth nodded in agreement. They would give her that much.
There was no question here who won the debate, but one question did remain – where were the Obama people? Etheredge had the answer. Although they had called and hoped to take over Tosca for the debate, “a lot of people that work for them are in high school,” Etheredge said. “It’s a bar. I can’t lose my license.”