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The CrackBerry Chronicles

With Elaine Santore

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Elaine Santore

January 14, 2008

The 2008 Green Party Presidential Debate: The only debate that matters

Despite my grave disappointment over the Golden Globes being canceled, the change in plans opened my schedule for the Green Party Presidential Debate at Herbst Theatre. Or, as the press release called it: "Green Campaign 2008: A Presidential Debate That Matters." The title reeks of snark and self-importance and, therefore, I love it. Also, the Green Party chose Fog City Journal publisher Luke Thomas to speak on the media panel, which also included Larry Bensky of KPFA, Amanda Witherell of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Mary Ambrose of New America Media.

Green Party members and supporters packed into Herbst Theatre.

California Green Party co-founder Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi opened the debate.

Luke spent the hours leading up to the debate crafting questions for the candidates. I looked at his list of questions and suggested he add petro-collapse to his peak oil question. You know, because Luke is obsessed with peak oil and petro-collapse. We've all got our thing. My current obsessions are Vanessa Getty and Gossip Girl, and I am not ashamed.

Luke Thomas: "As president, what will do to address peak oil and petro-collapse?"
Photo by John Han

Before the presidential debate began, the candidates held a press conference with local and national media, including Current TV and a journalist from New York. Each candidate spoke briefly and answered questions. When presidential candidate and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney saw Luke, she immediately said to him, "You still had the recorder on when we told you to leave the room." McKinney was, of course, referring to the fundraiser for McKinney Fog City Journal attended last October. Luke maintains the voice recorder was returned to him before the secret meeting began, before supporters slapped their checkbooks on the coffee table to encourage McKinney to officially declare her presidential candidacy.

Meet the candidates: Kat Swift, Jared Ball, Cynthia McKinney, Jesse Johnson
and Kent Mesplay

After meeting McKinney in October, I had the opportunity to watch American Blackout, the 2006 documentary which chronicles McKinney's battles on Capitol Hill when she raised questions about 9/11, the disenfranchisement of black voters during the 2000 and 2004 elections and the unaccounted $2.3 trillion missing from the Pentagon's books. The most poignant quote in the documentary comes from McKinney herself, after she re-gained her seat in 2005:

"I don't think I've demonstrated much caution since I've come back to Washington D.C. Maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do. But now there's a difference. I really don't have anything to lose. I've lost everything. They took away my job, my livelihood, they took away my good name. So, why not stand up? Why not fight?"

We're with you, Sister McKinney!

Sister McKinney illustrates record federal spending
under the Bush Republican administration.
Did you know fiscal conservatism is a progressive ideal?

Although McKinney only recently registered as a Green, she has been courted by the Green Party to run for president since 2004. We'll see how well she does in the primary, but judging by the debate alone, she appears to be a shoo-in for the California Green Party nomination. But if the 2004 election was any indication, the Green Party nominating process could be contentious, especially if Ralph Nader decides to enter the race. Again. (Golf claps).

Ralph Nader signed copies of his new book, "The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence & Close the Democracy Gap." Nader didn't interact with any of the other presidential candidates onstage because he's a huge diva he hasn't officially declared himself a candidate, yet. Maybe they should have let Ralph take a nap after he stepped off the plane. Homeslice looks beat!

Ralph Nader looking haggard.

My favorite quote from McKinney during the debate was on the topic of party infighting, which garnered a standing ovation: "I have never seen anything like I have seen in the Green Party! I have to ask my constituents, people who support me, to come and join this? I want to be proud of what I've asked them to join, so please, come together." Seriously. This shit is getting embarrassing!

The candidates' panel.

District 8 congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan and District 9 supervisor candidate Mark Sanchez facilitated as moderators for the debate. Sheehan was thrilled to be asking questions for a change, and she did an excellent job. Sanchez was pinch-hitting for Matt Gonzalez who was originally scheduled to speak but, according to Jim Dorenkott, couldn't attend because of a sudden bout of food poisoning. Dorenkott said he did not know where Gonzalez might have gotten the intestinal bug. Let's hope it wasn't at a Golden Gate Restaurant Association eatery.

Moderators Cindy Sheehan and Mark Sanchez.

The nomination process is still up in the air, but it was clear McKinney and Jared Ball were the two standouts in the debate. Ball is an independent journalist, assistant professor of communications studies at Morgan State University, and the host of FreeMix Radio: The Original Mix Tape Radio Show FM11. Although he acknowledges that he isn't a politician, Ball spoke passionately about mobilizing the hip-hop community with his campaign. He expressed support for McKinney's campaign, and emphasized that, as a black man, he isn't a minority, but part of the majority of individuals on the planet.

Candidate Jared Ballís campaign slogan: "Ball in '08, Don't Hate!"

Texas political activist and organizer Kat Swift said she was running for president to mobilize young people and disenfranchised voters. Swift, 34, will be old enough to run for president by the time of the election. Despite her relative inexperience, Swift demonstrated a broad understanding of social and economic issues. When asked about her tactic, Swift said, "If you speak the truth, people will vote for you."

Kat Swift

The diversity of candidates running for the Green Party nomination is impressive, to say the least. The other two candidates, 2004 presidential candidate Kent Mesplay and actor/filmmaker Jesse Johnson, also demonstrated progressive values and unique perspectives of American politics. Could the Green Party be facing the type of change Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been talking about for months? Somehow, the change I saw onstage Sunday afternoon felt a little more sincere, and less like political rhetoric.

Debate emcee, KPFA's Aimee Allison.
Photo by John Han

Pat Monk, R.N., spreading the love with his soulmate, Lisa Monk.

Congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan with campaign maestro Andy Blue,
"saving generations from the scourge of war."

Sassi Solaimani, Luke Shanas and Elaine Santore.
Luke, 12, is named after his uncle, Fog City Journal publisher Luke Thomas.
The younger Luke spent most of the debate playing with my CrackBerry and iPod Nano.





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