Saturday, March 10, 2007

INTRODUCING THE BLUE AMERICA SPEAKERS BUREAU

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-by Howie Klein and Jane Hamsher

The scheduled Firedoglake chat with Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has been postponed until March 24th. Instead Jane and I are going to be talking about the next step for Blue America, a progressive speakers bureau.

There just aren't enough people on TV reflecting a progressive political perspective on a regular basis. The right has long had an advantage on this front-- they identify people early, train them and book them just about anywhere to talk about just about anything.

The success of FDL's coverage of the Libby trial has prompted a lot of people to say "what's next?"  And what's next is a Blue America speaker's bureau. Bloggers know what's happening in the news better than anyone, but they don't have access to many of the speaking opportunities that the right still dominates. Do we really need Kate O'Beirne interpreting current events for us? I don't think so. But providing an alternative-- identifying good speakers, getting them the training they need, hiring a booker who will constantly be working to get them speaking engagements everywhere from college campuses to cable news shows-- that is the challenge.

Fox "News," in their unrelenting quest for "fair and balanced" has just hired a former Republican member of Congress and a former Democratic member. The Republican is uber-reactionary Rick Santorum, one of the most extremist members of the Senate in modern times. And they balance that out with... Harold Ford, Jr., a right-of-center Democrat who chairs the odious, corporate-backed DLC.  How many times have you wanted to kick your TV set in when the "Democratic perspective" on an issue was represented not by a clued in progressive but by Joe Lieberman or by Inside-the-Beltway powerplayers with non-values-oriented agendas like Donna Brazile or James Carville?

On January 20, Matt Stoller, Tom Swan and myself were visiting Jane in the hospital and this whole Speakers Bureau idea became a topic of conversation while Jane drifted, happily, in and out of consciousness. Since then the 4 of us plus John Amato, Joel Silverman and several other FDL community members have been trying to hone the idea into some kind of reality. It's still a work in progress and Jane and I thought we'd like to open it up to the members of the community for ideas and suggestions.


The next step is financing both intensive training seminars and hiring a booker. To that end, this week Jane was telling me about all these great bits and pieces of memorabilia she had from the Libby trial. Having done several eBay auctions for People For the American Way that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, a light immediately went off in my head. I tried (unsuccessfully) getting the Louboutins away from her but we did come up with a great list of items we could offer for sale in a Blue America eBay auction, including the Dianne von Furstenberg silk wrap dress she wore to the Bill Clinton meeting in Harlem as well as in court when the Libby verdict was read. We're looking for more items now and if everyone keeps it on their minds, all sorts of opportunities will present themselves. Example: Jane will be interviewing Dan Rather at SXSW and she's going to get a copy of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" signed by him-- at which time we'll see if we can get those great R.E.M. guys to sign it too. A unique and collectible valuable eBay item conjured up out of nowhere. I bet lots of people will come up with even better ideas.

We're really excited about the idea of the speaker's bureau. Not only will it allow people to like Cliff Schecter to be paid for their efforts (colleges pay speakers, cable news doesn't), it will allow them to hone their speaking skills and take the message into venues that have been dominated by conservatives for eons. We'll be providing infrastructure to get progressive messaging out into the political discourse beyond the blogosphere on a regular basis, and that is a very valuable and much-needed service.

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8 Comments:

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Cliff Schecter said...

This is such a great idea!

I am honored to be mentioned in this piece--but the truth is that we need this very badly.

Kudos my friend!

 
At 12:47 PM, Anonymous SombreroFallout said...

OT, but hey:
Howie, your post on Dave Obey is disturbing in that it adopts the same smear tactic used by the WashPost and other media outlets in sliming Dems w/Abramoff's corruption, simply b/c some tribes were at one point contributors.

There at least four reservations in Obey's district, so contributions are no surprise.

But you know damn well a 3k contribution doesn't mean squat. It's peanuts; Obey's the last person to be a part of that. *Tribal contributions in and of themselves don't imply sh!t about whether or not a Dem is part of Abramoff's corruption. As you well know.

At minimum, an apology and retraction is warranted.

But you go the rest wrong too. Ryan & Petri are polar opposites of Ron Kind and Dave Obey.

And Dave Obey is the antithesis of Joe Lieberman. He's a straight shooter and a tenacious progressive--the only one I've every seen to get really angry on the House floor and really tear into Repubs over hypocrisy and malfeasance.

You also openly misrepresent Obey's voting record. He's batting .800 against Bush bills, as "Nell" noted. What gives?

The American Conservative Union ranked Wisconsin reps, lifetime (lower is better):
Petri = 76.6
Ryan = 92.5
Obey = 9.8
Kind = 16.3

Only Tammy Baldwin (2.6) and Moore (2.0) scored better. (Sensenbrenner-R = 88)

Saying Obey has a "long and consistent records of support for all of the Bush Regime's" policies--is plain wrong, if not outright dishonest.

IF there is ONE person who'd impeach Bush in an instant, that man is Dave Obey. You cannot count on Hillary or Obama or Edwards or Biden or Dodd or Clark or even Kucinich to do that. But Dave Obey is the one guy who would, who will, and who knows how to accomplish it.

I'd think long and hard about how you want to deal with a guy like Obey.

He said he didn't have the votes. Putting the squeeze on Obey is just stupid. Try identifying the handful of Reps & Sens who refuse to vote with Obey b/c they think it's a political risk. Then get a campaign of CONSTITUENTS FROM THEIR DISTRICTS to show them it's political suicide not to swing to Obey's position.

You might try working WITH Obey, instead of squeezing someone who already agrees with you--and is passionate about it.

Those Congressfolk will listen to constituents, but why would they listen to Obey, once their minds are made up?

Obey's canny enough to get them on the record opposing withdrawal from an unpopular war. Rather than vote to deny troops funding (which is political suicide).

One last thing: No one dared to ambush Joe Lieberman in the halls of Congress. But somehow that's ok for Dave Obey?

He actually stopped to listen politely, though rushing to a meeting. I'm sure he's embarrassed about it, but there's something silly about offering a poem to someone who is already so passionately in agreement. Obey's gonna figure out HOW. To be honest, few in his position would have stopped to listen, OR would have been so honest. Who else would have asked them 'do you see a magic wand?'

David Obey's the real thing--and he deserves an apology all the way around.

As he said recently, "some people wont' take Yes for an answer."

 
At 12:55 PM, Anonymous SombreroFallout said...

A few weeks ago a friend sent me an email.

"I never met [Obey] before. . No sign of big ego. He even pulled a harmonica out of his pocket to play along with a folk band and looked like he was doing it cause he liked to, not cause it would look good."

I'd heard Obey has his own blues/folk band--turns out he plays harmonica in The Capitol Offenses. Normally I hate those DC vanity groups, but Obey's is genuine—he once accompanied legendary follksinger Tom Paxton at Bayfield's "Big Top Chautauqua."

Also, Bill Kirchen (of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen) fronted an allstar band benefiting Rep. Dave Obey with ex-Dead Mickey Hart on drums and Bruce Hornsby on piano.

I'm a bigger fan of the Guthries and Pete Seeger, and am not much of a Dead-head-- and I dont' care what any of them think.

The fact that Obey enjoys pulling out the harmonica for some local folk band means much more to me.

But given Obey has the roots and cred to jam w/Paxton, and Hart and Kirchen know it (and go out of their way to prove it), well, it's an incontrovertible signal you're going after the wrong guy.

He's the antithesis of Joe Lieberman.

 
At 1:00 PM, Anonymous SombreroFallout said...

My friend's email continued:

"Yesterday [Obey's] theme was, it really does matter how you vote. And then he went down the list of progressive causes that just got an increase in funding. [Obey is Appropriations] He railed on the tax cuts for the rich and the corporate war machine. He described the invasion of Iraq as the worst decision made by a US president. And he lamented that DEms could go no further because there are 49 republican senators plus Joe Leiberman. He endorsed Edwards by saying that this is the person who he most trusts to fight for the little guy."

"Which reminds me of this. David Obey held a town hall meeting (thankfully he doesn’t’ call them that) right outside my office yesterday. He sure comes across as just one of us who is trying to keep things from getting worse and fix things where he can. I loved it when he’d say, “Last week Nancy and I decided to [fill in the blank with what ever evil republican thing they just outlawed.]"

"But now to the point. The college president, in her introduction of Obey, said, “He’s been in congress long enough to have experienced two previous impeachments.” And her point was?"

Obey would impeach Bush in an instant.

Joe Lieberman deserved your wrath. Dave Obey doesn't. But bloggers were fairer to Lieberman than Klein is to Obey in this post.

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Somrerofallout. Obey's record is Obey's record. I put it out there for everyone to see. I don't think he's terrible. There are plenty of worse Democrtas-- much worse-- and he's infinitely better than every single Republican. I just said I don't fully trust him.

Since then, someone told me how he trapped Rahm Emanuel leaking detrimental information to the press. I haven't posted the story yet because I'm still checking the facts. But even if it's true-- and it seems to be-- Obey's record still stands as is. Voting with the GOP 9 times on Iraq matters may seem "moderate" to you (and to others); it's not my cup of tea.

I was already sorry I lashed out at him more strongly than I needed to. Once he apologized to the woman he called stupid, some of my antipathy towards him diminished. I have a feeling he does want to figure out a way to end the war and that he's working loyally with Pelosi. We'll see. By the way, these comments of yours belong on the thread about Obey, not here.

 
At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Speakers Bureau is a great idea and I'd like to see some "offensive" planning going on...so that Democrats are going after targets and looking for targets of opportunity.

 
At 3:59 PM, Anonymous python said...

A speaker's bureau is much needed, and seems a basic and necessary part of any progressive infrastructure. I am constantly amazed and alarmed at how far behind the Right we continue to be. Carry on with this idea!

(sombrerofallout, would you not hijack threads?)

 
At 8:21 PM, Anonymous soyinkafan said...

What a good idea.

Suggestion:

Get David Mamet to work with potential speakers if they need help with their media presence. He blogs occasionally at HuffPost, why not?

Brian Cox (if he's in Los Angeles) is a is also terrific acting teacher. Very kind, damned effective. My personal experience is twenty years past, but he could only have gotten better with age.

Twenty minutes with a pro can do wonders for someone's speaking style.

 

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