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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Live from Chicago: The YearlyKos Presidential Leadership Forum

I'm sitting in the grand ballroom listening to YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper introduce the moderators for our groundbreaking Presidential Leadership Forum this afternoon (Matt Bai and our very own Joan McCarter!). I will update this post throughout the event, and I invite you to turn on your television to C-SPAN/CNN or watch online via UStream and follow along with us.

Here we go!

UPDATE I: The first questions have been directed at Governor Richardson and Senator Dodd, concerning Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito) asking whether the candidates would vote in favor of another right wing Bush appointee to the high court. (Both candidates said they felt deceived by Roberts and Alito and vowed to have high standards for their own nominees).

UPDATE II: Senator Clinton has just been asked about the healthcare battle in the 1990s (she feels she has learned valuable lessons there) and Senator Obama was asked about the difficulty of investing in healthcare, education, and other progressive priorities without going further into debt.

Obama believes that investment and fiscal responsibility are both simultaneously possible, as does Edwards, who followed up the question and thanked the netroots community for being a force for change. Richardson stressed his experience at balancing state budgets and criticized Edwards and Obama for putting too many promises on the table.

UPDATE III: First question from the audience is about media consolidation and Murdoch's News Corp/Dow Jones deal, directed to Senator Dodd. It is very cool to see Jeffrey Feldman go out into the audience and hand the mic to actual members of our community who then ask the questions. Dodd responded by saying he had written the Justice Department with his concerns about the deal and outlined his opposition to big media. Senator Clinton followed by emphasizing the importance of media competition but did not go into details.

UPDATE IV: Kucinich just talked about his belief in a universal, not for profit health care system. Edwards followed and discussed what he will do in his first few days of office, drawing rousing applause and cheers by declaring that America belongs to its people and government should be open. He denounced Washington lobbyists and their audience, drawing huge applause.

Gravel got one question before the end of the domestic policy of the debate (about his support for a regressive national sales tax). and gave a rather bizarre answer. He declared that it would never pass Congress so it was irrelevant and then went on to criticize the other candidates, America's electoral system, and the entire democratic political process in the United States.

UPDATE V: The candidates are now talking about Iraq. Senator Clinton went first and gave the answer you'd expect - yes, we need to withdraw, yes, I have a three point plan to do it, I will start that process if elected. Kucinich followed and insisted Congress can use the budget to force a pullout - and if the Bush administration puts up a big fight, impeach Cheney (and then Bush).

Richardson jumped in and said he had a one point plan - get out - and stated his belief he could do it in six months. Gravel insisted that Senate Democrats could back the Republicans into a corner by holding constant cloture votes on Iraq legislation to force the GOP senators to buckle.

Senator Obama has just been asked about anti-Americanism abroad. He reiterated his opposition to the Iraq debacle and spoke of the need to pursue those who perpetrated September 11th rather than invading other countries that did not attack us.

Senator Edwards just denounced the "war on terror" frame. Senator Clinton followed by stating her belief that the real feeling abroad is anti-Bush sentiment, not anti-American sentiment.

UPDATE VI: Senator Obama was asked about our relationship with China. He believes it is important that we get out of the current situation where China is our banker and we are in their debt. Working with China, Obama said, will require an administration committed to diplomacy.

Senator Dodd spoke next about putting strength back into goodwill programs that are desperately needed - such as the Peace Corps.

Governor Richardson and Senator Edwards answered a question about dealing with Pakistan. Diplomacy and negotiation is important, but America must not be afraid to act, they said.

UPDATE VII: We're on to the philosophy and values portion of the debate. The candidates were first - asked about hiring a campaign blogger (all said they would, except Gravel who declared he would do it himself. Edwards said Elizabeth Edwards would be his choice) and visiting all fifty states in their campaign (Gravel, Kucinich, Edwards, Obama said yes, Clinton said maybe, but she supports Dean's fifty state strategy and engaging American citizens in a conversation).

Richardson also likes Dean's work, particularly his efforts to strengthen state parties, and said same day registration and verifiable paper trails were needed.

Edwards reiterated his and Barack Obama's stance on campaign finance. Clinton disagreed with Edwards' "no money from Washington lobbyists" position, drawing boos and hisses. Senator Dodd called for public financing of elections and received a standing ovation, all the candidates said they were for it.

Obama then sharply challenged Clinton and made a point of his disagreement with her policy of accepting lobbyist money. He was loudly cheered.

(Clinton stated later she would introduce a constitutional amendment to implement public financing for elections).

The candidates were asked about reforming the executive branch. Obama will stop the revolving door of White House appointees writing policy that benefits future private sector employers. Richardson will reform Homeland Security and put FEMA directly under the president.

Clinton would also shake up the department and reform it. Dodd will issue executive orders on the first day to reverse regressive Bush policies.

Richardson has the final word. He will respect the Constitution and work with a Vice President who is a member of the executive branch.

And that's it! Forum over! Great job by Joan, Matt, and Jeffrey. Wow, what a different experience. It was lively, it was fun, and it was definitely not staged.

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