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Live from Chicago, President ....

Greetings from the Yearly Kos convention in Chicago, where the 44th president is among the contenders participating in the first-ever netroots Presidential forum. Let's see who makes history today.
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Greetings from the yeaklykos convention in Chicago, where the 44th President of the United States is among the contenders participating in the first-ever netroots Presidential forum. There are almost as many cameras flashing at the candidates as when Barry Bonds or A-Rod steps up to the plate. Let's see who makes history today.

DOMESTIC AGENDA QUESTIONS

kos diarist "McJoan" opened with a question to Bill Richardson about his suggestion that Whizzer White was his model Supreme Court Justice. "I screwed that one up" he says, asserting that his Supreme Court would include diversity, legal scholarship, and affirmative answers to the questions: are civil rights, equal rights and Roe v. Wade settled law?

McJoan then turned to Dodd to ask whether he would support another Bush Supreme Court Justice nominee. Dodd said he believed John Roberts when he came before the Senate and said he would follow precedent, and now that Roberts is not doing so, Dodd would not support any Bush nominees because we need a Court that will uphold the Constitution and our civil liberties.

Senator Clinton was asked about universal health care coverage and her "battle scars" from 1993- what are those scars? It is not enough to have a plan - you have to have a political strategy that it's an American value worth fighting for. You must build a coalition of doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and businesses. And your support must be big enough to withstand the blowback from insurance companies. "Universal health care will be my highest domestic priority as President."

Senator Obama talked about three big changes he would make: ending the war in Iraq, not renewing the Bush tax cuts, and instituting pay-go to insure that if we are going to have tax cuts or spending we will pay for them. "Are we making investments [even if it means deficits] that will pay off for the American people or are we funding wars that we should not have authorized or should not have waged for tax cuts that wealthy people weren't even asking for at the time?"

Senator Edwards: "If you want change, serious and big change, and I believe the American people do, who will be the best candidate? You want someone who has fought these people their entire lives and beat them over and over and over and who will fight to take their power for them?

Richardson said he had balanced 5 budgets as Governor, drawing hisses and boos for a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget and the line-item veto, and cheers for a ban on corporate welfare. He would also ban earmarks.

Senator Dodd addressed media consolidation saying that the Justice Department should address the Murdoch-Wall Street Journal purchase now; that "we should stand up to Bill O'Reilly" [on whose show Dodd appeared to defend yearlykos] and we should stop media consolidation.

Senator Clinton said that we should keep the architecture of the Internet free and open [cheers for net neutrality], did not specifically commit to new regulation, praised the recent FCC auction, and said we should keep media and Internet free and open.

Asked whether there was a government agency he would shut down, Congressman Kucinich said agencies that perpetuate nuclear power. He then identified himself as a single payer advocate - "even the insurance companies want universal health care - that was Michael Moore's point in the movie Sicko" - what we need is to receive the care we are already paying for, including vision, dental, prescription drug care.

Edwards was asked about the Bush administration's efforts to assert a unitary executive and responded: "On my first day in office, I will close Guantanamo. America will not engage in or condone torture. No secret spying. This is not America. We need a transparent government. I don't think the Democratic Party has to wait to reform ourselves. I don't take money from Washington lobbyists, Barack doesn't either - I'm proud of him for that - let's all commit ourselves today - not a dime from the Washington lobbyists." Roaring ovation.

Senator Gravel was asked about his support for the fair tax. He said that any answer to taxes is considered by politicians with the questions: "How does this affect my election; the people who put money up for me; the party in power." That is wrong, Gravel says; we should consider the American people.

INTERNATIONAL AGENDA QUESTIONS

Asked about Iraq, Senator Clinton said: "Under the Senate rules, trying to get to 60 votes is a problem. We need to keep the pressure on. I will begin the process of redeploying our troops in a careful and responsible way. I have a 3-point plan to get out. That's why I am in this fight with Cheney and Gates because I had the temerity to ask" if they were planning. "We need more Republican support starting in the Senate in September."

Congressman Kucinich said: "Starting with Cheney, impeach him for lying." Bush can use the money we gave him to take the troops out and start an international peacekeeping and security force." The Democrats have failed. They were elected to end the war. They should make Bush end the war. "If he doesn't we should impeach him."

Governor Richardson said: "I have a one point plan: we should get out. We should leave no residual forces. He said he does support troops in Sudan where they could help not in Iraq where they are targets. "This is about American kids dying."

Senator Gravel said you can go get the votes by bringing all troops home and forcing votes all the time.

Asked if American foreign policy is not in any way responsible for the ethos that created international terrorism, Senator Obama said: "we were not responsible for 9/11. That was an act of evil. We should go after the people who did it, who were not in Iraq. I said so in 2002. We should finish the job in Afghanistan and add pressure on Pakistan. Bin Laden is still at large." Pressed again, Obama said "we should engage with Muslim countries ... engage our foes as well as our friends and tell them the truth in both instances; close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus ... lead with our ideals."

Senator Edwards said more terrorists less allies under George Bush who framed the bumper sticker phrase "Global War on Terror." This has been a foreign policy of convenience and the American people are paying the price for it.

Senator Clinton say sentiment is anti-Bush not necessarily anti-American. "We have made some progress because our first responders have made us stronger." Bush and Cheney have alienated and created more enemies. It is a war on terrorists. We need to use every tool. "Be as analytical about it as possible - it is not a slogan or a bumper sticker - it is a complicated long-term struggle."

The country would have been better served, rejoined Congressman Kucinich, if we had had more analysis before the Iraq War. We need a new doctrine of strength through peace, and a rejection of the neo-con analysis that led to the war that the people on this stage voted for and funded.

Asked about China, Obama said we have to address outsourcing, currency manipulation, and trade. We need fair trade. Make sure we are active in the world. In Africa, Obama was told the Chinese are as present as the U.S. is absent, building roads and projects in Africa and South America. We have to get out of Iraq and beef up our presence in the world.

Senator Dodd said that serving in the Peace Corps taught him about the world. He advocated universal service - not a mandate but "Peace Corps, Americorps, a Senior Corps, a Heroes Corps - because we are missing a shared experience as Americans.

Senator Edwards was asked about pressuring Pakistan. "When I met with General Musharraf, he said 'our children are educated in madrassas; they are taught to hate America and all it represents.' So we need a public school education - primary school education to 100 million children in the world. That - along with soft power to create an undercurrent to drive people toward us - not away from us like Bush did - is what American power should be." Asked about leverage, he said we have economic leverage, then pivoted to Saudi Arabia and called on Congress to stop the proposed arms deal.

Governor Richardson said: "The Bush-Cheney policy toward Musharraf is appeasement. We have huge aid programs there. Say to Musharraf: 'You go after those safe havens. If you do not we will.' "

PHILOSOPHICAL

All agreed to hire a White House blogger. "Mine will be Elizabeth Edwards." Gravel said: "Do it yourself. Blog yourself"

Gravel said all politicians walk in mud. Those who raise the most are technically the most corrupt.

How many candidates would commit to visit all 50 states? Most agreed.

Senator Obama said if we want change we have to change the map. Our strategy is 50% plus one - we have got to expand the voter mix. When we get 40,000 people in Atlanta and half of them are not registered to vote, we can get them involved. Then go on to Mississippi and put it on the map and so on.

Senator Clinton did not commit to all 50 states but said she would have a 50-state strategy. "I will tell people in all these red states and red parts of blue states that I want to be the President of everybody." We will go into as many places as possible building on Howard Dean's work, and have a conversation.

Governor Richardson said there was a lot of resistance to the 50-state strategy in Congress but it is working to elect Governors. We need as a party to push for paper ballots, same-day-registration, and the attempts by Republicans to suppress minority voters at the polls. We need a strong nominee to excite people.

Senator Edwards said that there isn't a single place in America where people don't believe that the system is rigged. We need to stand up for real change, real reform. The Democratic Party should say from this day forward that we will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists. Not just Presidential candidates but everyone.

Senator Clinton: "I think it is a position that John certainly has taken." [Laughter and boos] I don't believe that anyone seriously believes that my vote would be influenced by money I have taken." [Audience reaction mixed on that one]. "I am here to thank the blogosphere for being part of the progressive movement in America - I wish they were here in 1993 and 1994 when we were trying to do healthcare." Will you take money? "Yes I will. Lobbyists include nurses, teachers, and employers. I want to be the President for everybody."

Senator Dodd said we should be for public financing. Senator Obama said "I am happy that Chris is for public financing." Dodd shot back: "I introduced the law years ago - I am not a newcomer." Then, Obama turned to Clinton: "you cannot say that the money did not make the difference. Those lobbyists are not just contributing to the public interest."

Senator Edwards jumped in: "if you have any question - how many people in this room have a Washington lobbyist working for you?"

Congressman Kucinich: "Would Senator Edwards expand that to include Wall Street hedge funds?"

[Lots of ooooohs] Edwards said no.

When asked about the Homeland Security Department, Senator Edwards and Governor Richardson talked about ending torture and restoring habeas corpus. Governor Richardson also mentioned competent leaders [Brownie, anyone?] and moving FEMA under the President. Senator Obama said we have to reform the entire executive branch. In the Obama administration, you cannot lobby the administration for the rest of my term.

Senator Clinton talked about her homeland security bill requiring qualified personnel which Bush signed then made a signing statement saying he wouldn't necessarily follow it. She also hit campaign finance again, saying: "We could also say no company or entity that employed a lobbyist could also give us money - take it to its logical degree. What you need is a Constitutional amendment for public financing and I will submit one when I am President."

Concluded Governor Richardson: "My Vice President will be a member of the executive branch!"

With that, the forum erupted in applause. "Awesome, just awesome," gushed the women at my table.

Some big swings (Edwards on lobby donations), some hits (Obama on 9/11; Clinton on health care; Richardson on budgets and Dodd on service), but only A-Rod and Bonds hit historic home runs today.

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