Tag Archives: USC panel

I Shouted Down Jon Fleischman Last Night…

…and man did it feel good.

Last night, USC convened two panels to have a sort of election post-mortem, first from a California perspective and then from a national one.

For the purpose of this diary, I’m going to address the national affairs panel because that was the one during which I smacked down one of the rightwing panelists…twice.

And this was no ordinary rightwingnut; it was Flash Report‘s Jon Fleischman.

More over the flip.

Fleischman and Steve Schmidt, who ran Schwarzenegger’s campaign (formerly of Bush-Cheney re-election fame), represented the Republicans on the panel. The Democrats were Democratic communications “specialist” Roger Salazar and Al Gore’s former Director of Political Affairs Karen Skelton. More on them later.

First, Fleischman. This guy was a piece of work, a classic conservative sell-out who’s still carrying Bush’s water. The topic was “what does Bush do now” and Fleischman said the following, no joke (I paraphrase):

I think Bush has already begun doing what he needs to do, which is to work closely with the Democrats in a conciliatory way.

I almost choked, I couldn’t believe those words came out of his mouth without any irony. Was he kidding? My blood started to boil. Certainly someone on the panel would call him out on this ridiculous statement.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

[crickets chirp]

Sigh. But I’m not the sort of guy to raise my voice when not called on. Hell, I’m no Mike Stark. The panelists were speaking and I was a lowly audience member. But then he said it again and this time, it was simply beyond my control. I shouted:

Is pushing John Bolton through conciliatory!?

All eyes were on me. They didn’t quite understand what I’d said, so I repeated myself more clearly and loudly, now that I was actually in control of the words this time. And Fleischman looked directly at me and replied something to the effect of:

The John Bolton situation is more an issue of loyalty for President Bush…blah blah blah.

So, in other words, no, it’s not conciliatory at all, is it Jon? Thank you.

The moderator looked in my direction:

Can you please save questions til the end.

I nodded and raised my hand acknowledging the request, figuring, certainly I wouldn’t have to raise my voice AGAIN out of turn.

Well, I was wrong.

As the panel went on, I noticed Fleischman repeatedly called the ‘Democratic Party’ the ‘Democrat Party.’ And again no one called him on it. I could feel the steam building inside me. Umm, anyone, is anyone going to react…

Then I heard a disturbance from the audience to my right. A guy I couldn’t see was mumbling something about how “Democrat Party” was offensive. He then got shushed by the moderator, so again I yelled out:

Could he please get the name of the party correct!?

Then my friend on the other side of the auditorium joined me:

It’s Democratic Party!

Fleischman never used the term again.

Now, what I did certainly wasn’t revolutionary and it may not even qualify as a smackdown truly, although for me it was new territory; I didn’t know I had an inner Mike Stark.

But the real issue was this:


Nowhere. They were nowehere.

Roger Salazar, one of the two supposed Democrats on the panel, posted his recap of on CA Majority Report, to which I posted a reply calling him and Karen Skelton out for letting these right wingers run roughshod over reality.

But honestly, I wish that was the worst thing Salazar and Skelton were guilty of. No, they were also quite adept at perpetuating a couple of media myths about last week’s election:

1. The absence of a national Democratic message to frame the election means that the result was more a function of  Republicans losing the election rather than the Democrats not winning. The Democrats were just in the right place at the right time.

2. Howard Dean was a big loser on Tuesday and Rahm Emanuel was a big winner.

This time, it was the Democrats I had to call out but I waited my turn. I waited until the moderator took questions from the audience. This time I raised my hand like a good little boy. They took 10-12 questions and the moderator never looked in my direction once.

The price for having spoken out of turn.

Well, as it happens, I didn’t have a question anyway. I had a comment. And since I didn’t get to share it last night, I’ll share it with all of you.

I am really tired of hearing people say Democrats didn’t really win on Tuesday, that Republicans merely lost. Oh really? We won majorities in the Senate, House, governorships and state legislatures. Not one incumbent Democrat anywhere in the country was ousted. And all this without a unifying message from the national party.

Yes, of course Republicans lost, they lost big, but largely thanks to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy, Democrats all over the country, even in the reddest of red districts, won. We challenged in more districts than ever before and fielded phenomenal candidates and because we did that and because there were actual boots on the ground in these districts, we could support those candidates so that they had the resources to make the case to voters that they were a credible alternative to the Republican incumbent and a credible agent of change. Howard Dean belongs right up there on your winners list.

Something like that. I’m still working on it, you get the idea.

I really wanted to tell it to their faces last night, of course, but there was something satisfying about having been banned from speaking.

So as you can see, it was a pathetic display but it was also such a perfect encapsulation of what is wrong with these beltway strategists. I mean, in the end, I started liking the Republicans more. At least they had some audacity. You wanna know who Steve Schmidt named as one of the winners of Tuesday night? Ken Mehlman. HA! On his watch, Republicans lost majorities of absolutely everything and he’s a winner? The way Schmidt put it, without Mehlman, the losses would have been much worse.

Now that guy is a Republican, promoting his own kind in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. There’s something admirable about that.

As I said to Roger Salazar in my comment to his post about the panel:

If you ever wonder why bloggers and the grassroots have problems with establishment Democratic consultants and strategists, think back to last night for your answer. I saw three Republicans on that stage last night; I didn’t see one Democrat.

Are you guys registered over at CA Majority Report yet? We need to use the comments there to pick fights and keep them honest.

Join me in the comments over at Salazar’s post HERE.