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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Meeting famous authors, bloggers, and Bob Casey

Tuesday night - primary day in PA - I finally left the polling place where I am minority inspector at about 9:30 pm. Whew, long day, I'm thinking; I'm beat. I debate just going home and calling my numbers into County Dem HQ and think nah, I do want to stop by the party at Joe Sestak's campaign HQ. That turned out to be an eventful decision. (A little background: Joe is running to unseat Curt Weldon in U.S. House district PA-7; both were unopposed in the primary, so there wasn't a lot of suspense on this race, watching the numbers roll in.)

After yammering at County HQ for awhile I finally drift over to Sestak's place just up the street, and the party is pretty much breaking up but there's enough fine folk still there to make it worth stopping in, and I do. Almost immediately I see Myles, the campaign manager; he high-fives me and says, hey do you want to go to a book-signing for Kos and wear a Sestak t-shirt and give us some publicity? I was so damn tired I don't even know how I answered but I know I was thinking, "geez, I want to help out Joe, but do I have to do this?" (More background for those who haven't been following: Kos has been rather, um, let's just say, "unfair and unbalanced" in his blog posts about John Kerry in the past, and as I understand it has some b.s. about Iowa, Dean, and Kerry in the book that he wrote with Jerome Armstrong. So as you might imagine, he really isn't a Kerry fan's favorite person in blogworld, whatever the relative ranking of his site.)

Long story short, I did express a bit of my dilemma to Myles but told him I'd see if I could do it.

Next morning I hooked up by phone with Sestak's lead blogger (Colin) and said, what the hell, I'll do it. Then Colin asked if I wanted to come to the "private reception" prior to the main deal. Again, what the hell, in for a foot may as well be in for a mile.

All along I'm thinking I'll just wear my Sestak t-shirt and keep a low profile and make some small talk with these guys. Hey, I'm jaded. Last December I was sitting in a bar with a group of bloggers chit-chatting with Senator John Kerry. So ya know, merely meeting famous bloggers is like, okay whatever. Well, more likely it was that I'd had less than 10 hours of sleep in 2 days and my brain was telling me to just find a corner to crawl into to go to sleep.

But, both events turned out to be really, really cool. Even meeting Markos was worth it...more on that later.

Colin and I arrived at the venue for the "private reception" - a bar in Old City named the Khyber (spelling?) - right on time, but the rest weren't there yet. "The rest" turned out to include Chris Bowers of MyDD, Booman (or as I call him, "The Booman"), and Duncan Black, aka Atrios, and a few others I should probably remember, but sadly can't. Oh, there was another VIP there...Villanova prof Matt Kerbel, who is the author of Get This Party Started : How Progressives Can Fight Back and Win. I spent some time talking with Matt, and I found him quite reasonable and impressive in his political knowledge and views. I think I'll buy his book.

While we were all sitting around waiting for kos and Jerome to show up, another fellow came in with a bunch of equipment and passed out some releases for us to sign. Turns out he's from a British company and trying to sell a film about "Bloggers." He told us we weren't likely to be on anything broadcast, what he was shooting Tuesday I think he called the "tasters" - i.e. bits he would use to sell the concept for the real flick. Still he wanted the releases signed just in case. I saw that everybody else was signing them so once again I said what the hell...although I confess this is something I wasn't expecting at all.

Wait, there's more...and we're still only at the private reception.

So eventually Markos and Jerome show up. Either shortly before or shortly after, an even bigger (in more ways than one) VIP walks in - my U.S. Senate candidate, Bob Casey! Woo-hoo! Now if I'd known I'd get to be in a group of about 10 people meeting and greeting Bob Casey, without even having to pay a $1000 campaign contribution, you know there'd have been no hesitation at all! Of course, I was so zoned by meeting Bob unexpectedly that I can't remember what we talked about. I mostly listened...in our little group most of the talking was between Bob and either Matt or Colin, but I remember agreeing with what Bob was saying and generally finding him quite personable and well-spoken. Even though I don't remember the topics discussed, I came away with a good feeling about supporting Bob for Senate.

Oh yeah, Jerome and Markos. I somehow missed talking to Jerome until the end of the evening, but I did get to talk to Markos a little bit there at the private reception. I do remember that conversation well. Markos surprised me a little with some comments about how he felt that liberal bloggers shouldn't be trashing the Democratic party...and I think I understood him in context to mean leading Dems as well. He stressed his perception that there are short-term and long-term goals, the short-term of course being to take back the House and Senate, and the long-term being to reform the Dem Party itself. Of course I whole-heartedly agree with those sentiments, at least for the short-term goal (I generally agree with the long-term goal but see it a little differently than he expressed it).

I am not sure that I think Markos' blog posts in the past have reflected the goals he described to me...particularly the ones bashing Kerry...but on the other hand, I haven't been paying much attention to what he is writing lately. Later in the evening I was discussing this with someone else, who reflected that they thought his writing had matured, and moved in the direction of being more supportive of the party and party leaders. So. Perhaps I will take a new look.

So, my short takeaway regarding Markos is that I now have a more three-dimensional impression of him, and I'm glad I had that opportunity. However, I am still wary of his perspectives and how he will use or abuse his megaphone. We will see if he really as matured as was suggested, or if it continues to be just more of the same.

After the private event we moved on to another bar (whose name I don't recall), for the actual book-signing event. Chris Bowers, who Tuesday was elected state committee person on a write-in campaign - a pretty cool achievement itself - gave a brief spiel, and then Markos and Jerome spoke for a bit, mainly talking about short and long term goals and getting back to a "people-powered party." The phrase has a nice ring to it...we'll see how it works out. I didn't like the assertion they made that, looking at the long-term goal, everyone who has been in Washington for more than a term or two has been there too long and has lost touch and needs to be replaced...I think that's a shallow view, and not true in the case of good public servants like say for example, John Conyers, Henry Waxman, or John Kerry. Something tells me this "movement" isn't going to be able to take out people like that anyway, and hopefully they'll use their energies more wisely.

For the rest of the evening I chit chatted with folks...even though we were in Old City I did find a few Delaware County folks to talk to and give Sestak literature to. At the end of the night I didn't even have to take a train home...Joe's brother Richard had come down and so he gave me a ride back to Springfield. We had a nice chat on the ride back. I had met and worked with Richard on the campaign before, but it had been awhile, so it was cool to be reminded what a really nice guy he is. That's the thing about the Sestak family that I can't emphasize enough - I've met a whole bunch of them now - it's a big family - and every single one of them is intelligent, accomplished, and above all, nice - "nice" in a comfortable, trust-inspiring, downhome cooking kind of way. It didn't take me long after first meeting Joe Sestak to be 100% on board with him as my candidate...but the more I know about Joe and his family, the better and better I feel about it. I am going to be really proud to have Joe Sestak as my Congressman.

All in all, it was a great evening, and all the best stuff was totally unexpected - meeting and chatting with Bob Casey and Matt Kerbel, having such a pleasant and down to earth conversation with Markos, many of the other interactions that I didn't even mention above, and finally a very pleasant end to the evening driving back to DelCo with Richard Sestak. I hope you all won't mind if I don't come down from the clouds for awhile.

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