by Rob Kall, editor, OpEdNews.com, and in this case, reporter and photographer (all photos by Rob Kall).
What they all agree on, Good news on Computer Voting, lots of Pics.
I went to the Democratic primary Presidential Candidates Forum in Philly yesterday. At the forum, moderated by former Crossfire host, Bill Press, seven of the nine Democratic declared candidates participated. Southerners Edwards and Graham did not show.
Before the forum, I checked out the Dean Rally. The local paper estimated 3000 people in attendance.
It was a big crowd, impressive, so early in the election race. Last week, I attended a Dean "meet-up" in Princeton, NJ. My impression of that event was that the people, in addition to wanting to support Dean, are hungry to do SOMETHING. They want contact with kindred political spirits. They want a place a forum where they can voice their anger and frustration. Dean has effectively tapped into this cauldron of emotions, and since about 40% of the US public feel that George W. Bush stole the presidency, that's a lot of people with angry emotions.
Dennis Kucinich also had 25-50 visible supporters with banners and signs in the vicinity of the Constitution Center. I didn't see any groups of people supporting any of the other candidates. This tells me that Dean and Kucinich are where the passion is in this early primary season. They were the first and second place winners of the Moveon.org internet primary and they continue to inspire people to take to the streets, to take action to take back America.
This Forum was organized the the Sheet Metal Worker's Union, and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former general chairman of the Democratic Party.
There were about 700 Union leaders, 150 VIPs and about 40 members of the press, including this row of video camera people from the networks and beyond, including an Australian crew.
Bill Press's first question showed at least one area of agreement among the seven candidates. He asked what they thought of the California recall. They all said in one form or another that this was another example of an attempt by the Bush administration, Karl Rove, the far right, republicans to refuse to acknowledge the will of the voters, an effort to steal another election.
Al Sharpton, undoubtedly the funniest, wittiest candidate that day described the Bush teams approach as "Let's do it again until we win." He added. We are experiencing a political hostile takeover of the American political system." And commenting on Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Joe Lieberman, the next funniest candidate of the day, said, "Instead of focusing on the Terminator in California, focus on getting the "job terminator" (Bush) out of Washington." And on the chaos in California, he warned, "There is a danger that we're going to look at this as another episode of Entertainment Tonight.
Next, Press asked what each candidate would do for the economy.
Here too, the candidates had a lot to agree on-- that during the Clinton presidency 22-23 million jobs were created, the deficit was wiped out and a 5 trillion dollar surplus created. How Democrats are the people who are fiscally responsible, that republicans no longer balance budgets. Dean and Gephardt said to reverse the tax break. The others said let the midle class keep their part, allow the abolishment of the marriage tax to stand and reverse the breaks for the wealthy and on inheritance.
At one point in the proceedings, Press, taking a glance towards the audience, ad libbed, "Let's hear it for the liberal media. Where are they?"
I popped up my hand, then, looking around, realized I was alone. I pulled it down. It was a rhetorical question. A joke. And I took another look at the fellow journalists and wondered if I really was a fellow journalist. I applauded when a candidate said something I agreed with. Every one of the other members of the press didn't. The difference is, I identify myself as a partisan member of the media-- a progressive, tough liberal.
I've heard from mainstream and former mainstream journalists that it's unacceptable for journalists to express opinions on or off the job. It can get you fired. Of course this doesn't apply to what Greg Palast calls the "Foxified" media. There is news of Fox News filing in court against Al Franken, for his use of the words "Fair and Balanced," which they claim to have trademarked. That's like a feces fertilizer plant trademarking the term "tastes good,' or "Delicious aroma."
The point is that the right wing can censor, selectively report, blatantly editorialize all they want and they play the Bush lie game. The call a pile of crap a sweet smelling gift. This week Bush calls forest rape-- handing forests over to commercial interests-- fire protection. It's another sweet smelling pile of crap!
So, after the forum ended, I went up to Bill Press and told him I was the lone media person to raise his hand. He smiled, then moved on to more face time with the VIPs (even Smokin' Joe, the Boxing World Champ was there with his entourage. )
Bill Moyers has said that the right has already started the class war. Al Sharpton offers some strong barrages on the economic front. Sharpton, replying to the economy question, said he would support a cap on corporate CEO salaries. He said, "We need to absolutely expose what deregulation has done to this country. If they can limit the worksite, we can limit their greed."
Kerry said we want to keep the end to the marriage penalty and keep the child credit but get rid of the high end of the Bush tax breaks and put back the inheritance tax.
Sharpton and Kucinich oppose NAFTA.
Joe Lieberman commented on how Clinton took us "out of the political wilderness." Sharpton, remarking that he's the only ordained minister among the candidates, added, "Before you can deal with the wilderness, you have to deal with the Burning Bush."
Dean said that Bush is not funding homeland security, that one third of cities are laying off police and firemen. "That's as dumb as laying off soldiers during a war."
Gephardt, commenting on Bush's abject failure at building allies and working diplomatically, said, "You, know, on the report card, where it says 'plays well with others?' I think he got an 'F'. "
Al Sharpton said, "We can't turn out democrats if we don't turn them on and we can't turn them on by acting like Republicans.
After the forum was over, I had a chance to talk one on one with a few of the candidates. I asked congressman Dennis Kucinich about voting theft. What's the point of running for office if you know the votes are going to be stolen like we know they were in Florida and like they probably were in Nebraska, Georgia and Texas?
Kucinich replied that he 's introducing a bill to deal with this in congress. That's great news. It will require that all voting software be owned and operated by the government, that there be a paper trail and that all records will be accessible. It is absolutely essential that this be fully in place and operational before the presidential elections.
Kucinich, in the post-forum press conference, said he couldn't understand how any union could support a candidate who supported NAFTA or the World Trade organization, and that anyone who had supported the war was also an unacceptable candidate. He asked me how I thought the forum went. I took it to mean how did I think he and the others did. My quick answer was that it seemed like his presentation was solid and well received. He spoke directly to the union members' needs and interests.
But then, so did Gephardt, who has been collecting Union endorsements left and right. (Hmm. I wonder if double entendre applies here.) But Gephardt tells this story about how his mother and father were union people and how he'll wield his presidential pen with familial union thoughts at hand. I have to wonder who these sheet metal workers, many of them big, bruising average Joes, will respond to-- Gephardt, a big, broad guy who looks and talks like he just came off a farm or Kucinich, a little, skinny, smart talking intense guy from an Ohio city. Gephardt offered empathy and familial loyalty. Kucinich offered rock solid support for their strongest policy needs. But it is so much in the packaging. There's many a romance where the parties go for other aspects besides the brains.
I told congressman Kucinich about opednews.com, that it was a tough liberal, progressive news and opinion website. He thanked me and said we need more of this kind of work and support.
Just as I was getting ready to leave, I saw Governor Rendell standing, apparently with an aide. I've been wanting to talk to Rendell for months. After all, he was the general chairman of the Democratic Party. I went up, introduced myself as publisher of a progressive website, described how I'd written half a dozen articles on the need for a democrat/ left counterpart to the neocon think tanks. What did he think of the project John Podesta had put together (American Majority Institute) and the one that George Soros had just put $10 million into (America Coming Together?)
I wanted to ask Governor Rendell, because as the former general chair of the Democratic party, in charge during the 2000 presidential elections, he should know better than anyone about what the score is on this question. As I've written in numerous past articles, I believe that the left must create counterparts to the billionaire funded right wing policy and advocacy organizations, loosely labeled "think tanks" that the right has wielded so effectively as weapons to systematically attack democrats, president Clinton, and quite literally, the US government and its democratic election process.
So I was pleased to hear him reply, "I like what Podesta is doing. But that's number two. The first priority is we need a more aggressive media." I asked him if he was familiar with Sheldon and Anita Drobny's Anshell Media project. He was. (The Drobny's have committed $10 million in seed money to fund a liberal national radio talk show network. Al Franken is a name often associated with being one of the radio talk show hosts.)
At that point, Howard Dean, having finished with his one-on-one on-camera interview with Bill Press came up to our group. Apparently the two governors were getting together.
I walked out the front door of the Constitution Center. There, at the other end of the mall was Independence Hall, where Jefferson and Franklin and the other founders signed the constitution. I walked a bit lighter, feeling buoyed by hope that we have a shot at taking back America, booting Bush the lying thief out of office, and feeling good that I'm a part of the "aggressive media" that Governor Rendell says we need, feeling good that I was there to raise my hand to represent the liberal media. Because next time, maybe more of us will be there, and more of us will raise our hands.
A postscript. It occurs to me that if Ed Rendell feels we need a more aggressive media, it's there waiting for him to help fund. While opednews.com is a fast rising newcomer there are also a batch of additional news and opinion web sites working hard to get the truth out-- moveon.org newsletter, commondreams, democraticunderground, indymedia, alternet, buzzflash, tompaine, truthout, smirkingchimp, guerillanews, makethemaccountable, peoplesvoice, thesmokinggun, fair, tvnewslies, . To the best of my knowledge, most of these, except for tompaine which has received strong funding, and moveon.org, which is very successful at doing its own fundraising, are working on a shoestring to survive.
Then there are the progressive print media with websites: MotherJones, Utne Reader, The American Prospect, Progressive Populist, the progressive, The Nation, In These Times. I have no doubt that these are all helping to energize the awakening of a level of democrat activism that hasn't been seen in decades.
Since my site is one of the web-only struggling sites, I'd like to see the democratic party and its supporters come through with some funding to help my site and the others. It's a major miracle what the sites listed have done on a slender shoestring. I've heard that commondreams has had some serious contributions and I am sure it has helped commondreams to maintain their level of activity. Being in touch with a number of the more accessible site leaders and founders, I know how tough it is for the progressive media to survive. For most of us, it's not our day job. The same people who are funding the big projects that might be could be and hope to be should throw some serious money to the handful of liberal progressive sites that are already getting the word out. This is an investment that will pay off. Of course it doesn't just take millionaire contributions. Howard Dean is on the cover of Time and Newsweek because tens of thousands of people sent him average contributions of under $100.00. We in the progressive media need the same kind of support. I just got my $400 tax rebate from the government. I've earmarked all of it to progressive causes and candidates. I think it's the best investment I can make to hope for a good return in terms of quality of life for me and my family. Think about it.
Rob Kall firstname.lastname@example.org is publisher of progressive news and opinion website www.opednews.com and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached