The fifth annual Take Back America Conference began this morning with a press conference at which Bob Borosage of Campaign for America's Future, Karen Ackerman of the AFL-CIO, Eli Pariser of MoveOn, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change, and Jerome Ringo of Apollo Project explained how we're going to take back America – or rather the fact that they believe we already have. The conservative era has come to an end, Borosage announced. (Can somebody please tell Congress?)
Copies of a new report were handed out showing the extent to which progressive policy positions have majority backing in the United States.
Amazingly, the report does not include a section on Iraq, but does mention it in passing to make clear that the authors have heard of the place. There is also no mention of Bush or Cheney's crimes or impeachment, or even investigations. But the speakers addressed the topic of Iraq extensively and unprompted, which is significant progress for this event compared to some past years. However, the speakers all focused on the 2008 elections, with the assumption being that nothing could be done about Iraq until 2009. (With self-professed progressives assuming that, it stands a chance of being true.)
The report at the above link is quite useful on other issues, and I recommend reading it. The idea of progressives paying attention to issues is to be applauded. But each speaker in the morning press conference announced their concern for issues and moved in the same breath to a focus on the 2008 presidential election. The packets handed out at the conference include a Newsweek article by Eleanore Clift that hypes Hillary Clinton as the new leftist, and concludes: "If the left wants purity on the issues, they don't have to settle for Kucinich. They've got lots of choices." The choices named, of course, are Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.
Pariser said Moveon's members top interest is ending the occupation, so Moveon's focus is on challenging Republicans and keeping Democrats united. Huh? Shouldn't the focus be on challenging supporters of the occupation, regardless of their party? "Americans Against Escalation in Iraq" is the name of the coalition effort Pariser promoted. Yet Moveon members, he is aware, would prefer "Americans for Ending the Occupation." Pariser said that persuading Congress Members to oppose the war is Moveon's project for "the next few years." But once you've announced that, you've made clear that you have no idea of ending the occupation this year. Pariser claimed that in Moveon's "virtual town hall" we saw all the Democratic presidential candidates competing to be the out of Iraq candidate. I must have watched a different event.
Ackerman mentioned Iraq first, and then said not another word about it. It is encouraging that, as she reported, one quarter of voters are from union households and that a majority of union members of every description, including white males, gun owners, and evangelicals, vote for the union-backed candidates. The benefit of this is reduced by the quality of many of the candidates that unions endorse.
Ringo had very little to say, but he did point out that the Apollo proposal was considered nutty when introduced at Take Back America in 2003, and is now supported by Clinton, Richardson, Giuliani, and Romney. Ringo has apparently not heard of Dennis Kucinich.
Richards talked about "health care," but she made no reference to single-payer or any other real solution. She addressed particular topics: teen pregnancies, abstinence only propaganda, birth control. However, she made no mention of what Bush might do to the Supreme Court in the next year and a half.
Woodhouse, like Borosage, announced that the conservative era is over. His evidence was the 2006 elections. He addressed Iraq and said it was the top priority, and that the thing to be done is to force Republicans to abandon Bush and end the occupation. He made no mention of pressuring any Democrats to oppose the occupation.
The Employee Free Choice Act, Woodhouse said, will probably be filibustered in the Senate this week, which is why, he reasoned, the next election is important. Impeaching Bush rather than writing off the next year and a half was inconceivable for these speakers.
When questions were taken, the first one, predictably, was whether Clinton will be booed this year as she was at last year's Take Back America Conference. Borosage claimed that that was unlikely because Clinton now opposes the occupation of Iraq and has moved in the right direction on health care (huh?) and trade.
Pariser claimed, in response to the next question, that at last year's conference the Democrats were widely considered weak, whereas this year's attendees will consider Pelosi and Reid very strong. I wonder if he'd take a bet on that? It's the 23% approval rating for Congress that makes me suspicious.
Another reporter asked if Iraq would always be Bush's war or someday be considered the Democrats' too. Pariser claimed that it was now the Iraqis' civil war, and that Americans understand that it's no longer "our troops vs. Saddam Hussein." Perhaps because he's dead? But doesn't Pariser understand that the "It's a civil war" line is used to justify the ongoing occupation and should not be encouraged?
Woodhouse jumped in to claim that "This will ALWAYS be George Bush's war." Really? Even after 50 years?
I asked about Ted Koppel's report last week that Clinton expects to still be occupying Iraq at the end of her second term should she win. How, I asked, could Borosage reconcile that with the claim that she opposes an occupation. I didn't get much of an answer.
Another reporter asked about impeachment, and Borosage said that there is no agreement on that among progressives. He based that claim on no evidence whatsoever. And he announced that one of the panels at this year's conference will include John Conyers. He did not mention that there are two panels actually about impeachment.
The two panels on impeachment have been added by participants. The conference has allowed self-organized events this year in an apparent effort to avoid getting Clinton booed and inappropriate questions asked in official events. But the self-organized panels are not listed on the hardcopy handouts at the conference, only on the website. The conference staff has banned handing out flyers to promote the events, except at a designated table in the back of a big room. And the events themselves are to be held in an unmarked corner of the same room behind a curtain.
Suddenly I feel like booing Hillary.
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