Live Blog: YearlyKos Presidential Panel

The major Democratic presidential candidates are attending the YearlyKos convention wooing the netroots like never before.

While nationally-focused blogs, like DailyKos, will undoubtedly live blog this event, I’d like to provide some decidedly Colorado perspective on the spectacle as we gear up for the DNC convention in Denver next year. 1:10 pm CDT: The grand ballroom of the McCormick Place convention center is cavernous and freezing cold. I’m wishing like hell I could call up a hot flash on demand.

About 2,000 people are packed into the first ever Yearly Kos presidential panel.


1:14 pm: Secret Service are crawling all over the ballroom. Bags were randomly checked (including mine) before we entered the room for the previous roundtable discussion by prominent national bloggers.

New York Times reporter Matt Bai is introducing the panelists and moderators.

Attending the panel discussion are:

Mike Gravel
Chris Dodd
Barack Obama
Dennis Kucinich
John Edwards
Bill Richardson
Hillary Clinton

Moderators for the session are DailyKos front page writer Joan McCarter and Jeffrey Feldman, author of The FrameShop Is Open.com.

1:19pm: It’s Obama’s birthday so he gets a round of “Happy Birthday” from the audience. He’s looking pretty sheepish about it.

1:20pm: The gloves are off on the first question!

Richardson acknowledges that he screwed up on his response at a previous debate that Byron White is his model Supreme Court justice.

He says that there will be a litmus test on Roe v Wade and civil rights. Woos from the crowd.

1:24pm: Clinton discusses her “battlescars” from leading the universal healthcare fight in 1994. It’s not enough to have a plan but to have a political strategy, it’s imperative to put together a coalition of health care pros and business, and it needs to withstand the blowback from the insurance industry and opponents to universal healthcare.

She claims that it will be her highest domestic priority.

1:30pm: Obama is asked about fiscal discipline. He states that the first step is to stop the budget bleed in Iraq, from the Bush tax cuts, and instituting PAYGO.

He says that he will not shortchange healthcare and education to balance the budget. Medicare and ‘caid are some of the biggest budget busters. Universal health care would be a better long-term investment.

1:34 pm: Edwards talks about the fundamental question of “Who will be the candidate about change?” He makes a campaign speech about being the candidate who’s fought the insurance and pharma sectors.

1:36pm: Richardson gets hissed for suggesting that there is a need for a Constitutional amendment on balanced budgets. Then, gets applause for ending corporate welfare.

1:40pm: Audience question is on media consolidation. Dodd responds that the Justice Dept should investigate Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal. And then gets in a gratutious slam on Bill O’Reilly, who’s been a critic of the liberal blogosphere.

Clinton responds that net neutrality is important. She criticizes that the Bush Administration is not enforcing the law. Said she was encouraged by FCC ruling on spectrum ownership.

1:42pm: Kucinich mentions that he would shut down federal programs that perpetuate nuclear sector.

He segues into the need for universal single payer healthcare and not federally subsidized universal care that supports private health insurance.

1:45pm: Audience question on restoring the balance of power.

Edwards rallies that torture and rendition would be ended. He remarks that there is a need for more transparency. Another campaign speech about not taking money from lobbyist and calls on his opponents to refrain from it. Raucous applause ensues.

1:46pm: Gravel is asked about a 23% national fair income tax instead of local taxes. Hisses from the audience.

Gravel admonishes the audience that they don’t understand how government works and the corruption of elected officials taking money from well-heeled patrons.

He advocates for people to have legislative power. Huh?

1:50pm: Clinton responds that the Congressional power of the purse and makes excuses that its harder to do in the Senate because of the smaller Dem majority. She mentions a three-point plan that isn’t terribly elucidated on pressuring the Iraqi government, getting straight answers from the military and promoting diplomacy that she will be implement on the first day of her inauguration.

Kucinich gets a standing ovation for suggesting that Cheney should be impeached and the president should too if he doesn’t get us out of Iraq. Good grief.

Dodd intones the political reality of not having a veto-proof majority.

Richardson says he has a one-point plan: Get out with no residual force. He says that we need to de-authorize the war because our soldiers are dying over a civil war.

Gravel brings up that the vote is there and Congress should force cloture. He missteps with “we’re not the imperial power we should be.” Eek. Don’t think that came out right. At least I hope so.

1:54pm: Obama is asked if the US bears responsbility for the increase in global terror. The Iraq invasion has fanned anti-American sentiment. End the occupation in Iraq and refocus on al Qaeda and more pressure on Pakistan.

He admits that our interests in oil, etc., in the Middle East than short-sighted foreign policy and investment in other countries to change how America is perceived.

Edwards is full of platitudes on bumpersticker “war on terror” politics and a foreign policy of convenience.

Clinton is full of three-point plans. She claims that the world is not anti-US but anti-Bush.

She makes a weird analogy about home security while having more criminals on the street.

She finds her footing and talks about how anti-terrorism is complicated and requires smarter foreign policy.

Kucinich criticizes the NeoCon agenda of “peace thru strength”.

2:02pm: Audience question about China as menace versus trade partner.

Obama talks about pressuring them on civil rights and currency manipulation. Most important thing to do is to be active in the world. Chinese business presence in Africa and Latin America is staggering in comparison to the US.

Dodd discusses our tongue-tied country and the lack of foreign language expertise and cultural appreciation in the US. He advocates universal service by tripling the Peace Corps and other organizations to great applause.

Edwards is asked about the Cold War implications with Pakistan’s ties to terrorism. He says that Pakistanis are as anti-American as anyone because children are educated in Madrassas. We should be more focused on public education. He then slips in a weird reference to HIV/AIDs. I think the talking points just got scrambled.

Richardson recalls going to Pakistan and Afghanistan as an envoy of President Clinton’s and says he knows the region. He says that we need to send a strong message to Musharref who violates human rights and yank the money unless he goes after the safe havens in the NW terrorities.

2:11pm: Audience question about whether the candidates would hire an official White House blogger. All raise their hands.

Edwards says he will hire his wife, Elizabeth, to great applause.

Gravel says the president should blog. Sure between negotiating foreign policy and responding to domestic issues. “Hey! Queen Elizabeth set your ass down. I need to get this post up.”

Gravel is asked if all politicians in Alaska are corrupt. He says that all candidates are corrupt and “walk in the mud.”

Obama says that the only way to enact change is to expand the voter base. He jokes that 45% of voters are on one side, and 45% are on the other, and the other 10% live in Ohio and Florida. He makes a pitch for voter registration.

Kucinich has a Nader moment and gets hissed that the candidates of both party are the same. He claims that he will campaign in all 50 states and Israel, Palestine, etc.

Clinton is employing a Dean-esque 50 state strategy but says she is concentrating on rural voters because we don’t pay attention to voters in red states.

Richardson talks about resistance in Congress to Dean’s plan to build up county parties. He brings up that Dems are taking on gubernatorial races. Big applause for verifiable voting and fighting voter disenfrachisement.

Edwards follows with rigging the roll call votes in Washington DC because of lobbyist influence. Moderate applause for re-iterating lobbyist reform.

Clinton remarks to audience laughter that “John has certainly taken on that issue”. Followed quickly by boos about it not being as simple as criticizing lobbyists. She talks about how lobbyists also represent real people and says she will continue to take their money.

Dodd jumps in to talk about public financing of campaigns to a standing ovation. Everybody on the dias raises their hands to show their support.

Obama says he disagrees with Clinton that lobbyists don’t have a disproportionate influence. Gets a standing-o for that.

Kucinich gets booed for asking Edwards if he would include hedge funds as banned campaign funders. Edwards doesn’t answer the question other than to say that he’s never taken money from Washington lobbyists.

2:30pm: They’re still yammering, my laptop battery is nearly dead and the other bloggers are bogarting all of the wall outlets.

Keep an eye on C-SPAN for a broadcast of the whole schmear.

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Wendy Norris

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