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Saturday, August 16, 2008

LIVE from Seattle Center: "We the People" all star panel kicks off

AM 1090's annual town hall forum has just kicked off here at Seattle Center's Exhibition Hall, where a packed house of progressive activists have gathered to listen to a panel of nationally syndicated talk show hosts talk about the 2008 presidential campaign and American politics.

Five of us from NPI are here, liveblogging and taking pictures.

The panel includes Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Sam Seder, Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, and Stephanie Miller, with Ron Reagan moderating.

Each host was introduced individually by AM 1090's Lee Callahan to deafening applause (the cheering and clapping really echoes around in this auditorium!).

The leadoff topic for discussion is Barack Obama's recent positioning on offshore drilling and energy. "It's a scam issue," declared Mike Malloy, referring to the Republicans' more drilling good posturing. The hosts are all pretty much in agreement: Obama should stake out a clear, unequivocal position against wasting money digging up more fossil fuels and favoring investment in renewable energy.

"The point is, you say no more giveaways to Big Oil," Sam Seder added. "You turn it around and put them on the defensive."

UPDATE: The panel has moved on to media culpability, and the media's coverage of the presidential candidates.

"I feel like right now what's happening in cable news is that they're absolutely, positively focused on Barack Obama," Rachel Maddow said. (Rachel, of course, broke into television not long ago, becoming a star analyst for MSNBC during the nominating season). She added that Barack Obama is guaranteed to win in November if the election is about Bush and McCain, but stands a fair chance of losing if the Republicans succeed in making the election a "yes or no" vote on him.

Sam Seder agreed, saying "The Obama campaign has been late to recognize that [McCain's strategy of turning the election into a referendum on Obama]."

"In my opinion, the Obama/Clinton campaign got dragged on a lot farther by the media than it otherwise would have," Thom Hartmann reflected.

Randi Rhodes thinks that Obama is capable of taking control of this race.

"I have a feeling that a sophisticated guy who knows exactly what he's doing," she said. Thom Hartmann suggested that Obama's campaign would not have supported having Hillary Clinton's name entered into nomination if it wasn't the best way to heal the rift within the Democratic Party.

UPDATE II: The panel briefly touched on the conflict between Russia and Georgia. ""We're the ones who encouraged them [Georgia] to punch the bully," Stephanie Miller said, slamming the Bush administration's foreign policy. The hosts all agreed that the American public doesn't really understand the full extent of the United States' involvement in the conflict.

Ron Reagan just introduced a new topic for the panel to discuss: election integrity. The biggest problem with our elections, the panel concurred, is that we have outsourced our voting apparatus to unaccountable corporations.

"I think Americans are disgusted with a lot of the privatization of our core government functions," Rachel Maddow said. Ron Reagan pointed out that the Republicans have been deliberately sabotaging the government so that they can then claim government is ineffective and inefficient compared to the private sector. Thomas Frank's new book The Wrecking Crew was mentioned as an excellent primer on the Republicans' strategy of sabotage.

UPDATE III: The panel just touched on Social Security (continuing the conversation about privatization) with Sam Seder noting that the system is not in a crisis and needs only minor adjustment to remain solvent well into the future. But Republican propaganda about Social Security persists because the media doesn't do a good job of cutting through right wing spin.

And Democrats in Congress, who are terrible at reframing and strategy, aren't making things any better. "The Democrats are absolutely incompetent at doing political theater," Thom Hartmann declared to roaring applause.

Sam Seder added that the party isn't as unified as it could be because there is an entire faction in bed with corporate America, and the only way to purge these corporate Democrats from the party will be to pick them off one by one.


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