Yearly Kos: Friday Sessions
The panels and discussions on this day could be spread out to an entire week. You kick yourself for missing certain things that are all happening at the same time. But here's a snapshot of what I saw today so far:
• Wes Clark was on fire in the morning keynote. He implored the President to stop hiding behind David Petraeus, screaming "This is YOUR war!" He put his emphasis on engaging our so-called "enemies" instead of isolating them, saying that the problem is the failure of leadership in the region, which leads us to spending $100 billion dollars a year in Iraq when bridges are falling down in Minneapolis.
• The panel on "Evolution & Integration In The Blogosphere" was illuminating. Instead of just being a self-regarding session about how to break out and become a big-time blogga, yo, it was a productive session about expanding reach through state and local blogging, as well as reaching out to other blogospheres (mommy bloggers, food bloggers, even gossip bloggers) that aren't necessarily political but have ideas that the progressive movement can plug into. In addition, there was good discussion on increasing access to broadband (which would open up poor and rural areas) and increasing diversity in the progressive blogosphere, as well as innovating technology.
• I saw Rick Perlstein speak on framing the debate. He essentially read a review of his that he wrote about an FDR book, which had a lot of good stuff in it, but wasn't a panel discussion so much as a book reading. Key quote: "There are more people who have bosses than who ARE bosses."
• The "Future Leaders" panel featured 7 Democratic candidates who lost by a hair in severely red areas in 2006, and who are all running again: Charlie Brown, Darcy Burner, Larry Grant, Eric Massa, Scott Kleeb, Dan Seals, and Gary Trauner. Massa in particular has been generating a lot of buzz on the convention floor, but I thought all of them were excellent. I spoke briefly with Gary Trauner (WY-AL) and was very impressed by his passion and his belief in progressive values, particularly on tax fairness.
• The lunchtime keynote was Andy Stern of the SEIU in conversation with Harold Meyerson. I've seen Stern speak a couple times before and have read his book, so much of it was familiar. But he's really a must for working people to listen to. He's whip-smart and he understands the revolutionary economic changes that have unsettled working people. Look him up, buy the book.
• The "Blogs vs. MSM" was certainly the panel of the day. Mike Allen of the Politico and Jay Carney of Time were matched up with Jill of Feministing and the great Glenn Greenwald. Allen and Carney were going out of their way to blow smoke up Greenwald's ass ("What Henry Waxman is to Congress, Glenn Greenwald is to the blogosphere"), and Greenwald would sit there stone-faced, and then launch into a relentless attack on the facts of how the traditional media conducts the discourse of the country. In other words, he ignored the niceties and focused on the facts, which is what all of the journalists being assailed by him should do as well. He mentioned that 70% of Americans in 2003 still believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11, and how recently 44% of Americans could identify John Edwards as the guy who got a $400 haircut, and the reasons involved with those perceptions. He mentioned how in 2006, after the NSA wiretapping scandal was advanced, the media would not declare that the situation was a violation of the law, but they would discuss the issue in political terms, discussing how this would be "a good issue" for Republicans. What we need are journalists who are referees, willing to confront those who they report, willing to be adversarial and skeptical. Bloggers do NOT want the media destroyed, or to become partisan. We just want them to do their job better.
My issue was one of resources. The media is being forced to do more with less, and because they are general assignment reporters and generally not experts on subjects, they cover for this by opening up that well-worn rolodex. And by and large, that rolodex reflects a range of opinion from The New Republic to Free Republic. They laud the blogosphere for its expertise (expertise that Jay Carney said he "didn't know" about), but never use that expertise in their articles, preferring to have bloggers gnash their teeth on the sidelines. Why aren't the bloggers part of the expert rolodex if they are so good on particular issues.
I do give Allen and Carney credit for coming into the lion's den, but Greenwald definitely got the better of them. The guy's a master.
• I saw my friends hekebolos and thereisnospoon in discussion with George Lakoff about the "Overton Window," the idea of setting up fully progressive positions to move the debate to the left. Lakoff began by dismissing the entire idea, which made for a really interesting discussion. Personally, I think the best way to think about these ideas is to not think about them at all. I think Democrats worry too much about HOW they should act instead of just acting. It's the Hamlet complex.
• Right now I'm in an Israel/Palestine and Middle East policy discussion featuring Juan Cole of Informed Comment and a writer for Bill Maher. "Intellectual mountaintop air so high I had to keep swallowing to keep my ears popping," to quote one of my favorite writers, Peter DeVries.