On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Berkeley, in all her splendor, turned out en masse Sunday evening to hear four Bush-bashing media icons.
“Unraveling the Lying Liars of the Bush Dynasty,” a benefit supporting KPFA and Global Exchange, featured three best-selling authors—Al Franken, Paul Krugman and Kevin Philips—hosted by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.
The show drew over 3,000 people to the Community Theater and sold out a week in advance as everyone scrambled to see the first-ever convergence of three high-profile progressive writers.
The ensuing show left the crowd sometimes rolling in the aisles in laughter, sometimes glued to their seats throughout a two-and-a-half-hour event that featured individual presentations by each speaker followed by a Goodman-led roundtable discussion.
Franken, co-founder and an original member of Saturday Night Live and author of the best selling book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, wooed the crowd with his charismatic wit, lobbing hits at Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, and President Bush, his four favorite targets.
“If you could ask Ann Coulter one question, what would it be?” asked Goodman during the roundtable discussion.
“Why are you such a bitch!?,” replied Franken to rolling laughter.
“We went to Orange Alert the other day. It’s the highest alert where Bush still encourages you to go to the mall. If it had been red he would have said stay home and shop on-line.”
Interspersed within the jokes were stories of what Franken does best—catching Coulter, O’Reilly and others in their lies.
The show had its own touch of added comedy when the microphones failed during the roundtable discussion, continually cutting off Franken’s punchlines and leaving him red-faced. The large numbers also added to the chaos, particularly as the show opened up and the crowd ran like frenzied teenagers for the best seats.
After Franken came Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Princeton professor of economics. In his segment Krugman answered the question many in the crowd wanted to ask: How could he, a progressive, work for the Times? The bottom line, he said, was that his columns sell papers and he knows he can return to his job as a professor if he’s ever fired.
The real crowd favorite however, was Kevin Philips, author of the American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. Philips, once chief political analyst for the Nixon administration and still a self-described moderate Republican, stole the show. Offering a series of examples connecting the Bush family to the crisis in the Middle East, he cited Bush Jr. and Sr.’s involvement in the arming and then disarming of Iraq as he mapped the family’s push towards dynasty.
After the show, Bob Baldock one of the organizer of the events and public events coordinator for KPFA, said he hoped the event would act as a catalyst for the new social movement that has begun to take shape as the country nears the primaries.
“This [event] will have legs,” said Baldock, who has organized over 200 events for KPFA. “People don’t want to sit at home and watch the TV, they want to be active. We’re building community, people are starved for it.”
Goodman, whose team of assistants were selling the newly released Democracy Now DVD, quickly agreed in a backstage interview that the event resulted from a growing movement of those ready to insure change.
“I think people across the political spectrum are fed up and want an alternative… If this were a larger space there would have been thousands more.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange, neatly summarized the event afterwards: “I think [this event] shows the energy to get rid of Bush, there is hunger for coming together, to talk, people could have staid for hours. People want to get down and dirty. [Berkeley] is a very special community. It’s a community that can play a key role in the debate. It is here in Berkeley that you get a sense for the power that is latent in other communities. If we can come together in Berkeley, that will say a lot about whether we can come together nationally.”
For those who missed the show, it will be aired on Democracy Now and on upcoming World Link TV segments and will also be given to MoveOn.org.