Thursday, August 14, 2003
“Monumental Democratic” Presidential Forum
Mike and I trekked to the Democratic Presidential Forum in Stillwater, OK (and the lovely OSU campus) because it was an unprecedented event for Oklahoma and we're both pretty damn lonely liberals in a sometimes (okay, practically all of the time) ultra-conservative state. Plus Mike is a politics geek and he eats this stuff up.
We left OKC after lunch and arrived in Stillwater around 2:30. After hitting a McDonald's to pee and pick up an ice cream cone we found a nice parking spot near the Gallagher-Iba Arena and headed over to the Wes Watkins Center for International Trade Development (impressive sounding, huh?) to see what candidate info we could pick up and check out the promised free BBQ.
I'm not too fond of crowds so Mike wandered through the crowd while I sat and people watched. After he checked the place out we went into the Wes Watkins Center and grabbed a bottle of water in the room designated for eating the BBQ. Neither one of us ate anything because we were still full from lunch (and our ice cream cones) but I did note that they had hot dogs, ham, polish sausages and chips for people to eat. Not too bad especially considering it was free.
One thing I did notice was people wearing t-shirts with the slogan "Democrats care." I'm so ticked off at the Democratic party right now my first cynical thought was it should read "Democrats care...if the polls tell them they should."
Other than that and a few candidate specific tees most people used stickers to get their points across. Mike was really nice and accepted stickers from just about anyone who offered. I don't know which of the candidates I like yet so I refused 'em all. Yes, I'm a big grouch.
We wandered a bit, went back outside and decided to wait for the arrival of Howard Dean. The forum venue wasn't going to let people in until 4 pm and Howard Dean was supposed to arrive at the Wes Watkins Center around 3:45 so we figured what the heck.
While waiting I watched the crowd. I saw a guy handing out Lou Barlow stickers. He's running against my current Representative Ernest Istook. I would love for Barlow to win but Istook seems to have a lock on his seat. Bleh.
I also got to see Randy McIlwain from Channel 5 do some interviews. Let me tell ya, you wouldn't know it from watching Randy on screen but he's got a really nice ass. Such a pity that being a talking head relegates him to above the waist shots only.
I also saw another channel 5 personality, Cherokee Ballard. She looked about like I expected and she had a really nice pedicure. If you're wondering, her ass was ok too. But not as nice as Randy's.
And to round off my OKC minor celebrity roll call, Tyler Suiters (channel 5 also) made an appearance. He's a lot taller than I thought he would be and he's really thin. As with most thin guys, his ass wasn't anything to write home about.
Around 3:50, with still no sign of Howard Dean, Mike decided to go amongst the crowd of people waiting for Howard Dean to arrive so he could get a couple of pictures. I sat in my little spot in the shade and alternately watched people and crushed these teeny-tiny black ants that had a bite like an ant ten times their size. Ouch.
While waiting I also got to see Carol Moseley Braun get into a car. She's very elegant. She's also far too liberal to be elected President but I like some of her ideas.
Howard Dean finally arrived around 4:15 and he gave a short but rousing speech to his supporters. I couldn't hear a word of it but Mike got a few good pics. After everyone cleared out we headed for the line to get into the Gallagher-Iba arena. We met a nice older couple from Choctaw who seem to be involved quite a bit in local Oklahoma politics.
The line was long but it moved quickly and we were in our seats by 5 pm. The forum was supposed to start at 5 but Kelly Ogle (Channel 9 talking head and one of the moderators) announced that the line outside was so long they were going to delay starting so everyone could get a seat. Evidently the organizers were only expecting around 3500 people and 5600 showed up. There was more than enough room in the arena because it wasn't even half full when everyone settled down.
A small gripe about Kelly Ogle. He does these opinion bits on the news called "My Two Cents." They're never very interesting or controversial. Of course not. Don't want to alienate the viewers. But I remember him commenting on the controversy over a billboard in OKC advertising the Vagina Monologues which was being performed in town (maybe at Oklahoma City University?). Anyway, people were upset that the word "vagina" was out there for their children to read. He went right along with everyone and felt that it wasn't appropriate to have to explain to children before they were ready about what a vagina was. Excuse me, it's not like the billboard was for the "Fuck me doggie-style Monologues." Now *that* might have been difficult to explain to your young children. But what the heck is hard about explaining what a vagina is? Geez, it's a body part and boys don't have 'em. Get over it already.
The forum officially started at 5:25 pm. Unfortunately Al Sharpton wasn't going to be in attendance. He was "detained." That was too bad because I was interested in hearing what he had to say. Guess I'll visit his web site.
After a short prayer, the national anthem, and a short speech by Jay Parmley, head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Governor Brad Henry came out and chatted a bit. Boy was I ever glad when he defeated that fundamentalist boob, Steve Largent. The only thing that could have been worse than having Frank Keating as our Governor was being saddled with Steve Largent. This is a pretty funny web site done by someone who *really* doesn't like ol' Stevie baby.
Anyway, I like Brad. He seems like a nice guy even if he is an Oklahoma style Democrat (read: still pretty conservative). His wife is super nice-looking. She gives schlubby guys everywhere hope that they too can marry a hot chick.
Each candidate only got to talk for 12 minutes and they were questioned by Kelly Ogle and a Tulsa talking head, Terry Hood (KOTV). They started each candidate off with the same first question, "What would you have done differently than G.W. Bush regarding the events after 9/11?"
First up was Dennis Kucinich, a US Representative from Ohio. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He was very thin and kind of short. Reminded me a little bit of Barney Fife. He's also too liberal to get elected. Basically he was against attacking Iraq at all (a lot of cheers on that one) and he's big on universal health care. He's also got this whole "Department of Peace" idea which is so the antithesis of anything the neo-cons believe, I wonder if they get a laugh out of it. It's a nice idea though. I liked a lot of what he had to say but again, I'm realistic, and he doesn't have a chance in hell of being the Democratic nominee for President.
Carol Moseley Braun was up next and the same question was posed to her. She felt that Congress "abdicated its responsibility to declare war." She also blasted G.W. Bush for not working with the international community more (a common theme for the forum). She also thought that G.W. Bush should have continued the hunt for Bin Laden instead of pursuing the "misadventures in Iraq." She also does not like the Patriot Act one bit.
I believe she was the first candidate who was asked the gay marriage question. No hemming and hawing from Carol, she is for legalizing gay marriage. Quite a few cheers for that which surprised me although some folks behind us and to the right of me were not liking that one bit. One guy even booed while people cheered. Dork. She likened the opposition to gay marriage today to the opposition to black/white unions in the 1950s. She said a lot of the same verbiage was used by the opposition crowd.
Anyway, Mike's comment on her was he'd love to see her as Attorney General rather than John Ashcroft. Amen to that. But like Dennis Kucinich she's too liberal to get elected in the US.
Joe Lieberman came out next looking very dapper as he always does. On being asked the post 9/11 question he said that some things he would have done the same. For example, he supported the President on going after Saddam Hussein. The crowd didn't like that but Joe countered with something along the lines of at least you know I'll tell you what I really believe even if I think you're not gonna like it. Mike thought that was a pretty good save. Joe doesn't like the way the President is handling post-Saddam Iraq. He would like to see more international involvement in getting Iraq settled.
Most of the candidates faulted Bush for his handling of the economy. Big surprise there. He voted against the 2001 tax cuts and blames the crappy economy on a loss of consumer confidence post 9/11 and the corporate scandals and the "fiscal irresponsibility" of the Bush administration. He would not, however, repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. The middle class tax cuts would be kept.
Lieberman, not surprisingly, was against gay marriage. The crowd actually hissed when he said he voted for the defense of marriage act. Ol' Joe doesn't want gays and lesbians to marry but he went on about how he supports legislation to protect them against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When asked what about the economic component to marriage and the discrimination inherent in that (yay, Terry Hood, good question) he responded that he supports legislation to give "gay partners" certain rights.
Unfortunately Joe Lieberman probably has a good shot at being the Democratic nominee. He's got the power and the name recognition and the boneheads in the party would see him as being just moderate enough (but with some good ol' conservative values) that he might have a chance of defeating Bush. I think Bush would win against Lieberman but perhaps that's just me.
Dick Gephardt was up next. He also voted with G.W. Bush on invading Iraq but that Bush hadn't "excecuted" it the right way. Bush should be using NATO and the UN especially in the aftermath. It's costing the US too much.
He moseyed on into the economy and got a rousing cheer when he talked about the Clinton economic plan that gave the US a surplus. "In 24 months this President has messed it all up!" Lots of cheers for that one, let me tell ya. He wants to get rid of the Bush tax cuts and supports universal health insurance.
Gephardt has a lot of union support so he talked about NAFTA and rah-rahed Unions a bit. His Dad was a milkman who was in a Union. Stressed his humble beginnings in St. Louis. Here's where he really sounded like a politician. Gephardt probably stands a good chance for the nomination too because he's pretty middle-of-the-road and well-known. He leaves me lukewarm though.
Next up was Howard Dean. Mike thought he got one of the biggest rounds of applause from the crowd. They were pretty enthusiastic and he did get a louder reception than Dick Gephardt.
He said that President Bush did a lot of things right after 9/11. But the problem is Bush said a lot of things and then didn't follow through with them. Dean feels that Bush is squandering money and not on security for our country. He also said he won't send Americans to die in a foreign country without telling the American people the truth about why he's sending them. A lot of cheering and applause from the crowd. Mike's aside to me: "Stony silence from the Lieberman people behind us."
Dean also said that Bush should have cooperated with the UN and continued sanctions (not sure I agree with that--the sanctions weren't working). The time to remove Saddam Hussein was during the first Gulf War. The crowd liked that too. He also pointed out that for six presidents the US contained the Soviet Union which was a greater threat than Iraq ever was. Why? Because the people in those countries wanted to be like America. Bush has destroyed that feeling throughout the world. The crowd really liked that.
Howard Dean was asked how he would handle the problems we have with our Social Security system. Predictably he wants the wealthy "to pay their fair share." When asked if we should raise the age for receiving social security, Dean replied, "If you keep George Bush as President you probably will have to raise the age." That got a laugh from the audience. He then said that if you have a strong economy you don't have to tinker with social security.
He admitted that the economic downturn after 9/11 would have probably happened anyway. Then, and this was something he mentioned more than once, he ragged on the President for giving tax cuts to "Ken Lay and his cronies." He also said he wouldn't have cut taxes at all with the current economy. "Most people would gladly pay the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was President if they could have the same economy." Another crowd pleaser.
Dean is for tax cuts for small business because they create more jobs and they don't leave the US. He'd also like to see pensions be protected by having them run independently and making them portable. And, if a US corporation moves its money overseas in order to avoid taxes the US shouldn't do business with them. Oooh, I liked that one and so did the crowd.
The final speaker was John Edwards who is just too gorgeous for his own good. And he's got a to die for Southern accent. He played up his rural America background-first person in his family to go to college, bootstrap beginnings, for the workin' man, etc. etc.
John Edwards also supported President Bush on the war in Iraq but doesn't think the President is doing a good job getting Iraq back on its feet. He wants to see more international involvement. "Lead in a way that creates respect for America and every single family in America will be safe." The crowd liked that line quite a bit. He also said the President should have taken responsibility for what he said about Iraq and nuclear material.
He voted against the Bush tax cut and said that we need a President who "understands that a job is more than a paycheck." He started to sound like a politician here because he started in on his humble background and his ability to beat the tough odds. He would also like to stop tax breaks for corporations who move their operations overseas. He would rather give them tax breaks to stay in the US.
Predictably he doesn't support gay marriage. But he does support partner benefits, blah, blah, respect not discrimination. [jerking off motion]
I don't think he has a chance of getting the nomination simply because he's too new and seen as being inexperienced. Maybe next election cycle he can make a good bid but he strikes me as more of a running mate. You know, pull a Dan Quayle and draw in those women voters. [I'm kidding. Sort of.]
Anyway, that was it. Bob Graham and John Kerry couldn't attend the Forum which was a shame. I'll just have to check out their web sites for more information on them. But as you probably already guessed, I was the most impressed with Howard Dean. He's one feisty guy and I liked what he had to say on just about everything. I think he's probably too much of an outsider for the Dems to nominate him but we'll see....
posted by Tamara - 2:46 PM -- Link to this entry
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