All posts by emma brody

I saw Kucinich, Clinton and Edwards at the Global Warming Forum

Crossposted at Daily Kos.
I Saw Kucinich, Clinton and Edwards at the Forum
by emmabrody [Subscribe] [Edit Diary]

Sun Nov 18, 2007 at 12:50:34 PM PST

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the Presidential Forum On Global Warming in Los Angeles.  As most of you know, all of the presidential candidates were invited.  Only three showed up. 

Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. 

I was invited by a head of an environmental group who was one of the initiators of the forum.  My seat was in one of the first few rows,  so I was able to see each of the candidates from a very close vantage point.

Before I entered the Wadsworth Auditiorium, I noticed  a few members of Code Pink milling about and thought to myself, “This might get interesting”.

Inside the auditorium were a lot of familiar faces.  Global warming experts, state politicians, actors, musicians, a few moguls and Hollywood executives.  I know many of these people to be Hillary Clinton supporters…I will say upfront that I support John Edwards for those who might find this piece biased.

The auditorium was filled with many more faces unfamiliar to me, so my assumption is that there was a strong mix of people from different occupations, each with a deep concern for environmental issues.  There was a panel of three environomental experts set to ask questions of the candidates.  Each candidate appeared alone, gave a ten minute speech, then fielded questions.

They were very different from one another.

Kucinich came first.  He gave a wonderful speech, completely from memory.  I was very touched by his genuine passion, by the fact that he lives what he talks.  He spoke about his modest house, his small car (which gets 35 or 40 mpg), his vegan diet.  He spoke sincerely about a need for Americans to feel empowered to change the establishment.  Grassroots.

From the LA Times:

Kucinich vowed an administration that would push “massive” spending on mass transit, incentives for renewable energy and environmentally safe construction techiniques, and said he would use NASA to press the country to develop “green technologies.”

There were a few areas where Kucinch felt vague, but he rallied. When asked about coal (which he’s against) and the impending loss of jobs should  mines be shut down, he  stunned the panelists by responding that he’d  compensate miners and anyone else whose livelihoods would vanish by environmental policies.

“I’m speaking of a guaranteed annual income”,  said Kucinich.

“For everybody?”, asked a panelist.


The panelists didn’t know what to say.  My sense was that while they admired the integrity of his position, they didn’t feel that his solution was workable.  I found his proposal to be idealistic, even if it seems the right thing to do.  Kucinich scored points with me, though, when he stated that in the scheme of things, when we’re paying for the havoc that global warming will visit upon us, such a plan would be “cheap”.

And he’s  right.  Try getting support on that one, though.  Kucinich received a wonderful ovation.  It was gratifying to see him given time to put his views across.

Then Hillary Clinton.  She took the stage to a standing ovation.  She had a lot of supporters cheering for her from the balcony (with signs) and the audience was a typical LA audience.  Very pro-Clinton.  There were several loud “boos”, but I didn”t know who they were coming from.

She stood at the mike.  Hillary knows her audience.  She’s raised millions over the years in this town for Bill, for her Senate race, and now for her presidential bid (side note:  her campaign was alarmed when many of her past supporters threw in with Obama last spring, prompting a “smackdown” of defectors and a quote that  they “would be remembered when she’s elected”.  Many of those defectors then held fundraisers and gave donations to Senator Clinton).

I have strong feelings re Clinton and I will be honest about that.  I was also open to the possiblity that if she gave a good speech, I would set those feelings aside.  And I thought it quite possible that I would be charmed by her, as I’ve heard so many reports that she is quite charming.  My husband was sitting next to me.  He has heard my opinion of Hillary.  He’s been more neutral on the matter.

Senator Clinton gave a performance.  Let me tell you what I mean by that.  She stood at the podium, strong, ballsey, with a “take no prisoners” attitude.  And let me be clear about this…I love strong, ballsey, ‘take no prisoners’ candidates.  Men, women, whomever. 

But there was something else in her demeanor.  It was a “don’t you DARE fuck with me” attitude.  There was nothing open…no sense of give and take (which I saw in Kucinich).  She was imperious, steamrolling and I had the terrible sense that if anyone was in the way, the’d better watch out.

I waited for a change in her demeanor. 

It didn’t happen.

On the plus side, I did like what she had to offer up.  In fact, I was impressed with her knowledge and policy.  Then I remembered, “Oh right.  That’s almost identitical to the policy John Edwards put out last spring.”  And it was deja vu all over again.  Edwards was first out of the gate with his health care policy.  Hillary came in eight months later with a strikingly similar one.  There were rumbles in the press about this, but they went away.

Hillary finally unveiled her environmental policy just one week ago.  She does, however, have an excellent evironmental rating on her voting record.

I think I understand one component of her demeanor onstage while forcefully gave her speech.  To me, it appeared she had made the decision to “intimidate”. To show the world that she “owned” her power. I felt, though, that anyone who would take her on would be quickly shut down.  I won’t tell you the visual metaphor that came to my head.  I will tell you that I agreed with many of her points. I looked around the audience to see what they were thinking.

The were listening hard, applauding.  Then her Q&A.  She got softball questions, as did all of the candidates.  This was a friendly forum.

I want you to know that I watched Kucinich very closely.  He’s a warm guy.  He impressed me.  I looked at Hillary’s eyes and they were determined, fixed.  But something else bothered me…I didn’t see the passion for what she was talking about. 

My husband turned to me and took me by surprise.  “She doesn’t believe it.”

He was referring to what she was speaking of.  I’m not sure if he’s right.  I think that she MUST believe what she’s saying…but my husband didn’t buy her.

Then out of the audience a man began yelling, “Answer the questions!”

Everyone whipped their heads around and saw a livid guy shouting at Hillary.  He ripped off his shirt to reveal a pink t with the Code Pink logo on it.  His face was flushed and angry.  The crowd started booing his interruption.  Some cheered. 

Hillary jumped on him with a lacerating, “Were you invited to speak?”  Her voice boomed.  She wasn’t going to let him be heard.  This didn’t stop the man, he got angrier, shouted something about the war and profiteering.

Hillary talked right over him.  Things got rough when a couple of security guys and a woman tried to escort the man out of the auditorium.

And as he continued demanding a response from Senator Clinton, something rose up in me and I began applauding him.  Hillary supporters all around me and, still, I started clapping my hands for this man.  I understood his rage.  Code Pink has been doing brave work (starting from a time when no one would stand up) and he was being treated poorly.  Worse, was the way Hillary treated him.  She slapped him down like he was a flly.

I have mixed thoughts about all of this, as well.  I loved this forum.  I loved the respect shown to the candidates.  I even understand how one would think that it was wrong for Code Pink to interrupt an invited speaker.

But had this happened to my candidate of choice, I would hope that Senator Edwards would have had the courage to acknowledge the man, give him due respect, and answer his question.

Hillary didn’t handle this well. She went to her first instinct…Silencing him.  This man is an American citizen who has been on the right side of the war. She should have respected the level of his committment, even if this was a forum on Global Warming.  I would add, however, that one has everything to do with the other.

This is a war for oil, afterall.

Later, my husband told me that he had to resist the huge temptation to stand up and shout, “He’s an American citizen! Let him speak!.  Now he wishes he had.

The man was escorted out.  There were people (some in the same industry as myself) who were glaring at me. One man caught my eye, began staring at me.  I thought, “Okay, here we go.”  I held his gaze for about 20 full seconds until he stopped.  He then appeared to mouth, “Don’t I know you?” to which I smiled. 

It was a stupid game of intimidation.  But it stopped..

Hillary was unflappable.  She continued talking. Her Q&A was winding down with a question on an imperfect Senate bill that would move to curtail emissions, but not by as much as she indicates she would like. 

She refused to say whether or not she would vote for the bill.  Instead, she invoked the name of Barbara Boxer who is on the right side of things and who’s trying to make the bill better:

“I can’t tell you how I will vote because I don’t know what the final bill is going to be.  On the one hand, it is nowhere near what I would want…On the other hand, we have never gotten this far before”

She also said:

So perhaps a thought that you might take away from this forum: ‘There is no way that we will ever produce a piece of legislation that will get through the Congress that every one of you will agree with.’

The audience stood up for Senator Clinton as she left the stage, though the applause, while strong, was less so than the greeting they gave her.  Her words seemed to be about diminishing expectations.

John Edwards took the stage.  He spoke very rapidly from written text.  I know his policy well.  It’s well regarded by environmentalists as having set the bar for other candidates.  He has the endorsement of Friends of the Earth for his stance against nuclear power plants.  I have to say, though, that I’d much prefer for him to speak extemporaneously.  California likes Edwards a lot, but they give their money to Clinton and Obama.  They’re not enamored with Southerners. He needed to prove to this audience that he truly knows what he’s talking about.

He felt nervous, initially, to me, as I’d seen him speak in person several times.  I know he felt that this wasn’t “his audience”, that it was, in fact, Hillary’s and perhaps he felt a little up against it. I’ve seen him speak from prepared text before ( not as effective for him) when he unveils a new speech.  But the substance of what he had to say was strong.

Then the Q&A…And Edwards simply and beautifully wove together the correlation between a bankrupt Beltway system, lobbyists, and politicians who needed to “put political calculation aside and actually stand up with a little backbone for what’s right.”

He didn’t name names. The audience knew who he meant.

Edwards time and again hit the idea that nothing would change until America cut off the rot in DC at the knees.  He advocated public financing of political campaigns.  They audienced roared their approval.

“Why does America not attack global warming int the way that we need to?  We know why we haven’t–oil companies, power companies, gas companies and their lobbyists in Washington DC”

Edwards was asked if a bill should be killed if it was less than what environmentalists wanted or if it should be passed just to get something on the boards.

He declared that this wasn’t an either or.  And began talking about creating a world where American voters, every citizen, would hold politicians feet to the fire.  He is of the strong belief that “we” are the ones who hold the keys to the country.  That “we” can drive our demands into actual action. 

He said, “Believe me, the politicians will follow like lemmings.”

The audience applauded him over and over.  Edwards combined idealism with pragmatism.  Many in the audience were already familiar with his detailed environmental plan.  One of his strongest points is not unlike Kucinich’s in that it creates some relief for those who lose their coal mining jobs.

When asked if he would give potential unemployed workers a “salary”, however, he answered, simply and regretfully:

“I can’t promise that”. .

He does want to set aside several billion dollars (which would come from elimnating oil subsidies) to bring relief and new jobs to those who potentially lose their jobs.  He wants to create  greencollar industries.

He called throughout the Q&A for the country to wake up and change the balance of power. He struck a blow at media consolidation and hit Rupert Murdoch as a prime example of the news being in the hands of the very wealthy few.  It was a sharp rebuke to the Senator from New York.

The panelists were clearly very excited and impressed with Edwards, they were all smiles.  He gave a rousing, powerful case which went to the root of our problems.  He looked down at the clock and seemed startled when he saw that he’d gone past his alloted time.  He kind of jumped and modestly mentioned that he’d gone over.  The audience laughed and applauded.  And they were one their feet.  He excited and moved them.  This “Hillary” skewed crowd was charmed and invigorated.  Edwards said the things few mainstream presidential candidates have ever said.  He won them over.

I was struck by the differences, live, in person, between Senator Clinton and John Edwards.  Senator Clinton clearly comes from a Beltway philosphy.  She felt like the authoritarian parent who says, “vote for me and let us in Washington do the rest”.  I felt as if I was being talked down to.

John Edwards says, “Vote for me, let’s walk together and get this done.”

The difference couldn’t be more clear.