Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

LIVE from Town Hall: Perfect Presidents or Perfect Politicians?

I'm liveblogging from Town Hall Seattle, where CBS radio executive David McDonald is introducing the talk radio hosts Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Mike Malloy, Cenk Uygur, and Ben Mankiewicz. The six hosts represent three different networks: Air America, Jones, and Nova M Radio.

I can only liveblog for a little bit, because my computer battery won't last long. I'll follow up with more notes after the event, when I've found and plugged into a power source. 1090 is webcasting the event, so you can watch online here.

The applause here in Town Hall, especially for Stephanie and Thom, has been rather deafening, and the croud here is electrified.

The panelists of Perfect Presidents or Perfect Politicians

All the hosts are now seated, and Thom is kicking things off with a question about public financing. Ed Schultz thinks that it could move forward at the federal level when Democrats pick up seats in the U.S. Senate.

Mike Malloy wonders why we have to have presidential campaigns that need to raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stephanie Miller jokingly asked "wasn't the Republican debate like Lord of the Flies?" quipping that she was waiting to see who was going to throw a rock at Ron Paul. Ben Mankiewicz talked about his experience working at local news, noting that persuading corporate America not to oppose public financing would be difficult.

Thom Hartmann moved on to the presidential candidates themselves, asking the other hosts who they favored. Malloy answered first, asking "Who's got the sign?" He pointed out into the audience where a man was waving a green "Gore 08" sign. The attendees erupted into rousing cheers and applause. Besides Gore, Malloy said the only candidate he would feel comfortable voting for is Dennis Kucinich.

But he added, "The really qualified candidate is the one who won in 2000," referring again to Gore. Stephanie Miller cracked that we can pretend the last eight years just never happened, and said she'd take any of the candidates.

Of Bush and the the current administration, Ed Schultz observed that "this guy's lowered the bar" and jokingly remarked that "it's a good time to run".

The discussion then turned to impeachment, with Ben Mankiewicz and Ed Schultz bantering about the difficulty of getting Congress to move forward.

Schultz was adamant about the need for immediate action. "Take him to the woodshed, impeach him, and watch a groundswell come to the Democratic Party in 2008," he thundered. He was nearly drowned out as the audience roared its approval, many jumping to their feet and shouting as they clapped.

Cenk chimed in, pointing out that Gore had already won an election (having been at least the undisputed victor of the popular vote in 2000). "Who voted for Gore last time who thinks, I should have voted for Bush?" he concluded.

Miller then revealed that she liked Obama. "Between him and Rudy, it's fear versus hope," she said. Schultz noted that all the Democrats were focused on the issues that mattered, in contrast to the Republicans.

Thom Hartmann interrupted to conduct a brief, unscientific straw poll to discern the audience preferences of the Democratic field. He asked attendees to applaud for their favorite candidates. Here is a tabulation of the responses in the order that Hartmann polled:

Barack Obama: Significant enthusiasm (loud)
John Edwards: Strong enthusiasm (LOUD)
Al Gore: Extremely strong enthusiasm (VERY LOUD)
Bill Richardson: Significant enthusiasm (loud)
Dennis Kucinich: Strong enthusiasm (LOUD)
Joe Biden: Very little enthusiasm (scattered applause)
Hillary Clinton: Little enthusiasm (scattered applause)
Mike Gravel: Very little enthusiasm (scattered applause)

Gore, Kucinich, and Edwards were the standouts in the poll, trailed by Obama and Richardson. The other candidates did not elicit a comparable response. Gore, of course, is not a declared candidate, so of the declared candidates, Edwards was the apparent winner. It is worth noting that Hartmann told attendees they could "vote" more than once - so most people applauded for more than one candidate.

The forum next turned to healthcare. Stephanie Miller stated that "healthcare shouldn't be a for-profit industry...clearly it's broken."

Cenk Uygur tore into the right wing's "socialized medicine" frame. "You know, our police are socialized. Our firefighters are socialized. Why is that? Because this is life and death. You know what healthcare is? Life and death."

Schultz commented that Bush's cabal was "the most anti science administration in history." Ben Mankiewicz followed Schultz and emphasized the need to fight back against the inevitable right wing attacks.

"We cannot cower when the response comes," he declared.

Thom Hartmann brought up the topic of values. Cenk was the first to respond, asserting the important of reframing. Added Schultz, "They flat out lie. You have to call them on it all the time."

Mike Malloy voiced concern that the Democrats wouldn't stand up to the administration if Bush suddenly attacked Iran, and all the other hosts agreed.

Thom Hartmann moved on to Eisenhower's warning of a military industrial complex and asked "What do we do about the permanent war machine?" All the hosts concurred that it was a problem. There was a back and forth about whether Islamic extremists would still pose a threat to America if we pulled out of the Middle East. This ended with acknowledgment that the real problem was fundamentalism, whether it be Christian in origin, or Jewish, or Muslim, or any other religion.

Thom closed by asking about strategy. Cenk mocked the Republicans' love of presidential candidates who are from liberal Hollywood. We need candidates who are actually qualified for the job, he explained, instead of people who are simply good at acting as if they were president.

Ben warned about division within the progressive movement and the Democratic Party. At this critical time, he said, "we cannot afford to splinter."

Schultz argued that "we're living in the most selfish generation in America" which doesn't seem to realize the impact of the energy it uses, the waste it creates, and the reprecussions of excess. Nevertheless, "hope is a big part of this," he said.

Stephanie Miller closed by jumping up and shouting, "Gore Obama 2008" then making a serious point about "voting your better angels".

Thom had the last word. He opined that there were neither perfect presidents nor perfect politicians, but through a bottom up movement, we have the potential of countering top down failures within the party and within the country.

And that was it.

It was a fabulous event. I've sat in very few crowds that were as fired up as this one. The room was packed, it was hot (there were many jokes about that from the hosts - Town Hall doesn't have a good air conditioning system because of its age) but it didn't seem to matter how uncomfortable it was.

People were engaged. Nobody appeared subdued. There was outrage, there was passion, there was friendly conversation, and of course, humor.

I expected the warm welcome the hosts got. I didn't anticipate the appreciation that was showered on 1090 AM itself. I hope McDonald and his staff realize that they have built a loyal listener base that would gladly tune in to a live local show from Seattle. If they really want to invest in this format and this station, they need to take that step instead of ceding the market to 710 KIRO.

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