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

Friday, July 18, 2008

LIVE from Austin: Markos vs. Harold!

It's lunchtime here in Austin, and almost all of the attendees are in Exhibit Hall 4 eating sandwiches and watching the debut of Meet the Bloggers with Cenk Ungyur, a project of Brave New Films. This first show features Arianna Huffington, Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake, Baratunde Thurston, and several others. It's really well put together...looks like a professional television show.

It will regularly air in the future at 1 PM Eastern, 10 AM Pacific on Fridays.

Markos and Harold Ford are about to take the stage for the keynote discussion.

UPDATE: Moderator Arshad Hasan kicked things off a few minutes ago by introducing each speaker and then asking each to give an opening statement.

Markos talked about the beginnings of the netroots community, the lack of media access that progressives have historically had, and drew a loud cheer when he said that the community will make primarying the most entrenched, arrogant, and unprincipled Democrats in 2010 a priority.

Ford thanked the organizers for having him and used most of his opening statement to talk about the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council), its origins, and what it does. He also stressed that differences between the netroots and DLC are nothing compared to the differences Democrats have with Republicans. "I am confident that a president named Obama would be very different from a president named McCain," Ford said.

Arshad asked both candidates what should be done to build the party.

Ford focused on appealing to Republican voters, saying that Barack Obama would need to receive the support of people who voted for George W. Bush twice to win the presidency. Markos talked about fielding authentic candidates who represent real American, progressive values, because there are few in Washington, D.C. who truly have their ear to the ground and are listening to their constituents.

The discussion turned to FISA. Ford took several minutes to explain his nuanced position on telecom immunity, arguing that the people at fault are those in the Justice Department who instructed AT&T, Verizon, and other communications companies to turn over information to the government. Markos, of course, noted that there was no popular support for the bill that Congress passed, and that government's job is to protect the people by holding corporations accountable.

In other words, telcoms' spying on their customers should go unpunished.

Arshad asked about holding elected officials accountable.

"I think it's important to remember that they work for us. We don't work for them," Markos replied, drawing applause. Americans can't be intimidated by their senators or representatives, or power won't be wielded responsibly, Markos noted.

UPDATE: We're in Q&A now. Someone from the Roosevelt Institution asked about diversity in the netroots community, citing a concern about the demographic representation at Netroots Nation.

Markos replied by noting that the community is still young and growing, and people of different backgrounds are involved in different ways. Not everyone can afford to come to Netroots Nation and stay in the Austiin "We Nickel-And-Dime You" Hilton.

The next question was aimed at Harold Fold - I'm paraphrasing here, but basically the second part of it was, "Why do you go on right wing media like FOX Noise and smear Democrats with right wing talking points?" (The first part had to do with Ford's voting record in Congress, which Ford stated that he was proud of, and stood by). Ford asserted that he does not smear Democrats and reminded attendees that he no longer works for FOX, although he has "respect and admiration" for his "colleagues" there (predictably, this statement drew boos).

UPDATE II: Harold Ford just got educated.

Responding to his position on FISA, an activist reminded Harold that the lawsuits against the telcos are critical if we want to hold the lawbreakers in the Bush administration accountable, because it is through discovery that the public can find out what actually happened. Ford did not respond due to limited time. At least the point was made to Ford's face in front of everyone.

UPDATE III: The consensus following the lunch from people I've talked to is that Harold Ford sucked. Too much "I respect you, why don't you respect me?" nonsense, and not enough candidness about what Ford really believes.

UPDATE IV: I talked to George Lakoff about the lunch keynote and asked for his thoughts. He called it boring. I have to agree; it didn't come close to my expectations. I was expecting something more real, but then again, this is Harold Ford...I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up to begin with.


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