Monday, January 30, 2006

Sherrod Brown in Akron

I made it to the Sherrod Brown Forum tonight and got the Q&A more or less down on my laptop. What follows is a little bit of my impressions and my best effort to replicate what happened. It’s very long and pretty much all policy discussion in response to questions from a very friendly crowd. No one asked about Paul Hackett or the circumstances surrounding his getting into the race or bloggers or plagiarism or his wife. So no fireworks.

Anyone not interested in wading through all this should wait a little for the next post which is a good bit and has Capri Cafaro in it.

SCPD had set up question screening, but Rep. Brown decided to answer questions directly from the audience, so replicating some of the questions is a challenge. Also, as happens in direct question sessions, we were subject to a fair amount of speechifying by audience members who, apparently, ran the full spectrum of mental function. Also the post is replete with abbreviations and probably quite a few typos.

I got to the Library with about 5 minutes to spare, got my question into the SCPD screeners and met Phil Develis in person. Then I staked out a decent spot in the auditorium, near an outlet in case the laptop battery gives out. Then we all are asked to move down because he wants to work without a mic. So I moved. Meanwhile my laptop is taking forever to pull up Word. One item on my Don’t Get Me Started list has popped up and we haven’t even begun.

SCPD's President Ingrid Kunstel starts off acknowledging the candidates and VIPs in the audience. Tom Sawyer and Capri Cafaro running in the 13th, Palmer Peterson running in the 14th, Kevin Griffith, running for Kevin Coughlin's seat, plus one elected official, Tallmadge Councilwoman Lisa Zeno Carano. Then Ingrid introduces Rep. Brown glowingly who returns the favor. He describes her as a premier progressive activist. He says he's going straight to questions, but actually ends up talking for about five minutes first. Almost immediately, the jacket of his standard-issue charcoal grey suit is off, his sleeves rolled up. His scratchy voice sounds like it’s gotten ample work recently.

Of course, he could have the same cold I’m battling.

He says he likes it that we call ourselves Progressive Democrats. He delineates the difference between “liberal” and “progressive” along the lines I’ve heard before – liberals stop at social spending, progressives work to counter corporate power. He doesn’t run from the “liberal” label as he believes in what liberals believe in, but he seeks to go farther.

More or less a quote: We don’t want the government to run everything, but do want stong environmental regulations, worker protections [something else.] We want a strong federal government to face down corporate power.

He also talks about his canary pin which symbolizes worker safety. In 1900 baby born in the U.S. had a life expectancy of 47 years. Reason it’s longer now is what progressives have done through the years starting with food safety laws. It happened because people pushed the government to do these things, always over the opposition of the privileged powerful people (e.g., food safety laws, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, etc.) When you look at this progress, it makes me proudest of my country.

Problem is since Tom [Sawyer] left Congress. Privatization, laws that roll back protections for the environment, worker safety. The prescription drug bill is exactly that. They kept the roll open, etc, Tried to bribe one Representative from MI. Congress was lobbied by drug companies; this bill wasn’t written w/seniors in mind.
Every proposal you can think of, written by affected industries. On issue after issue, government has been turned over to powerful interests. Abramoff scandal is just the worst example. Drug bill will be another 160 billion in profits to drug industry. The public isn’t at the table, only these interest groups.

That’s what 2006, 2008 are about. Winning Governor and Senate races in Ohio will start everything.


Q: From your standpoint, how do we take govt back?

A: Expose it every chance you get. When Sherrod sees a letter to the editor, he writes letter to the writer. Tells a story from the campaign about talking to a civil rights veteran. In the forties and fifties, this man asked himself every day “How can I embarrass segregation today?

Abramoff is the worst, but Bob Ney, Mike Dewine, etc. all benefited. Gotta embarrass these people.

Q: Where is the outrage by democratic leadership?

A: Don’t know the answer. Prez has a big microphone . . .

Q: [same person interrupting] but nobody says anything.
A: I dunno. One example, some Democratic Senators want more troops in Iraq. That’s not helpful. I want to be Howard Metzenbaum. I don’t want to be President, I want to be in the Senate.

Part of it is too much K Street money to Democrats. Corporate money to Dems is “go away” money. I don’t think we need to raise money from groups like that. [applause]

Q: Patriot act – will it be extended or changes?
A: Parts will be extended. The administration has problem. Partly the wiretap scandal. Also have divisions in their party. The easiest Rs to work with are conservatives b/c they stand for something. R moderates could run things but they just cave.

Issues I care most about are Iraq, Medicare bill and CAFTA. Most R votes against drug bill were conservatives. One moderate. Similar on CAFTA.

Far right has problems with the Patriot Act. We’ve had amendments to Patriot that have had interesting coalitions.

Q: Chevron profits. What would you propose?
A: Don’t know. Some sort of excess profits tax, but its hard to do. Congress passed an energy bill that was a giveaway. Need to get rid of that. Oil companies want to limit refining capacity to keep prices up. Gotta punish them for limiting capacity.

Q: [incoherent crotchety guy]
A: Not an expert in faith based initiatives. Prez has used it to buy political support. To people of faith on the right, it shows “I’m with you. “

I’m, concerned with the imprint with his political appointees. Most divisive administration ever. Discusses illustrations of how closely divided the country is. But they govern from the far right. They don’t make any real effort to be bipartisan.

Q: [More incoherence from the same guy. This is why you answer screened questions]
A: Lots of longterm optimism.

Q/comment: Dems have allowed Rs to frame the argument. Environment is environment vs jobs. Havent’ heard a Dem talk about jobs dependent on environment.
A: I agree. Renamed estate tax death tax and convinced 60 percent of people that they would pay it. Don’t get help from newspapers.

Someone proposed an amendment to raise exemption to 100 million. Defeated by party line vote. [laughter]

Should link it to public health. Public may believe it to an extent, but link it to public health.

Q/Comment [same guy]: Its straightforward. Another example is Kerry saying he voted for it before against it. Explain in simple English.

Q: Bush admin down to one winning issue 9/11. Afraid it will carry again. What can dems do?
A: What do you think?

[a couple responses from the audience]

Think we go right back at them and say were not safer for going to Iraq. 2000 dead, survivors have worst physical injuries ever

Meanwhile, not protecting ports, rail, nuclear plants, water systems.

Word about Alito [as an illustration]: Won’t be on the Judiciary Commitee. But on the Senate floor, you’ll here me talk about every judge and record on regulations protecting workers. Safety, minimum wage, discrimination etc. that’s how you reach the public. That should have touched off a filibuster.

Q: What are your favorite progressive labor unions? What would you like to be more prog? E.g. I heard the president of AFL-CIO and he doesn’t seem to have fire in the belly.
A: Sweeny is not electrifying speaker.
Easy answer, get me off the hook answer: My daughter is an organizer for SEIU.
Seriously, we are seeing new life. Steelworkers have dynamic new leadership.

Percentage of union households voting has gone up over last three elections. Organizing Wal-Mart – what that would be. In the developing world, what unions can do will decide how the future will play out.

Q: HB 2830 [Pension protection bill]. You had amendments. Did it pass?

A: It’s slightly better. I was gonna vote no and its slightly better. Companies aren’t doing what they promised to do. Not a day goes by that don’t have a retired steelworker come in to a local office, pension slashed, losing health benefits. What are they supposed to do?
Congress has to change how this thing works. Employer-based health care isn’t working.

Wages gone up 12 percent, health care costs up 49 percent. The whole Bush speech tomorrow night won’t be about bringing health care costs down, it will be about bringing costs down for corporations.

Ohio is one of two states were state min wage is lower than fed. He has a minimum wage bill in which the COLA will be tied to increases in CEO pay and Cong salaries.

Q: Dems seem fragmented, Rs seem together. Dems response doesn’t seem to bring everything together. [questioner making speech about iraq] Do dems have something strong to say about Iraq? Or anything else?

A: Looking for ideas. Hard to do.

Q [butting in, no hand up.]: Not your fault. [speech about Republicans are the worst terrorists. Ahh he’s a 9/11 conspiracy nut. Building 7 went down due to internal demolition. This is two minutes of my life I’ll never get back. We were going to screen questions, you know. Why oh why did you subject us to this Sherrod?]
A: Next?

Q: Odds of budget reconciliation bill passing.
A: High but not certain. The way they do things, they call vote when they are within 5-10 votes and call vote in middle of the night, hold it open until they twist the arms. [BTW, I heard John Dingle on Diane Rehm today saying the same thing.]

Q: Why did MSM not say debate was still going on?
A: People don’t want to read about process. When I talk about this I talk about the times [i.e. middle of the night] these bill passed. That’s when room gets quiet. People can’t believe it.

Q: Rs have done so much wrong. What is your first priority?
A: Health care. Like to slide toward universal coverage. Expand Medicare to 55, allow buy-in. Gotta bring down drug prices.

Trade issues. Will be D point person. Shift in trade issues is coming. There’s a ripple effect –machine shops go down when factories move to China. That demographic currently trends R.

Q: Thanks for doing a great job. Why can’t Bush be impeached.
A: Republican congress. Same reason he’s not being investigation. If Dem house or senate, there would be so much information press would have to covcer it. Not really enough evidence, but could be if there was real investigation. Karl Rove is terrified of Dems taking either house. They know Waxman going after these guys

Columbus is terrified of Democratic AG or Auditor.

Q: People say the Dems against everything, what are they for? How do wee reach out to the people?
‘A: Gonna sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. Can’t get press coverage of Democratic proposals. E.g. I wrote a model bill governing how we should trade with Central America. I could tell you how to bring drug prices down w/o hurting innovation. If you have ideas, they aren’t not covered. ABJ doesn’t cover my stuff. Not , I’m just saying that I’m trying. I’ll continue to try.

Q: How do we protect election integrity?
A: Two ways. One, Strickland and I win by big margins. Second, we are starting early talking about election monitoring, talking to lawyers. Reprises Blackwell in 2004. Party and campaigns will have this set up.

Q: Used term health care a lot. I’m a nurse so I’m interested/excited. When you go to campuses, hope you talk about health promotion. It’s an undervalued concept. Hoping nureses become Federal employees. Nurses are educators. Hope you utilize health promotion and talk about nurses.
A: Govt response isn’t this. No money in health promotion.

All in all, Sherrod Brown doing what he does best -- taking policy with a crowd happy to swim in process minutiae. It was fun to watch, but questions about his ability to relate to regular folks on the stump remain unanswered.


Bill said...

Wow! Here is a novel, After 9/11: A Korean Girl's Sexual Journey. I strongly believe that you will have something to say about it, and especially about chapter 43, "9/11s are forgiveness," which makes "9/11" a general noun for the worst disaster that could happen in one's life. I have never seen any writer put it this way.
If I bothered you, please forgive me. Good luck!

Jill said...

Hi Pho -

You could guess that I love your report. Thanks very much.

Three words: Education? Technology? Jobs?

Just some words I didnt' see or see much of in your report. I know, everyone will say education isn't federal but we've bot No Child Left Behind to contend with.

As for tech and jobs, we're in Ohio, these are the issues too. And I lump economic development in there too.

Thanks again, great job.

Anonymous said...


I just met Paul Hackett when he came out to L.A. I have a totally different perspective on him now. Please read my diary on dailykos.

Scott Piepho said...


To be fair to Sherrod, under the format of the night, he answered the questions put to him. Fault the audience for not asking on tech and ed (and for wasting a lot of time grandstanding.)


I'd be interested in reading your DKos post, but YOU DIDN'T PROVIDE A LINK. An occupational hazard of being anonymous, I guess.

As for Bill Kennedy, he has worked fairly hard to generate comment spam. Clicking through the link I find a blog, "Bill Loves. . ." with one post about how much he Loves . . . that novel. He apparently got to the blog running
a search for 9/11 and got past word verification. Given the nature of the enterprise, I'm doubting he's the first on the block with a technology fix, so presumably he did it manually.

Just buy some Google ads, dude.

Anonymous said...

Has there been any noise about Brown and Hackett holding a few debates? I haven't seen anything, but I'd love to watch the two of them in a room together.

Here's a hint though, can't see Brown doing it. Shame, that would be worth a drive.