The Factor ventured into the belly of the beast of the secular-progressive movement in America so we could give you an up-close look at the YearlyKos Convention in Chicago last weekend. The convention is an annual get-together of left-wing bloggers, activists and radicals who aren't happy about much in the US these days, and they are big time power players in the Democratic Party. Bill wanted to monitor the situation, so he sent me to observe.
The Kos community went ballistic a couple weeks ago when O'Reilly took the airline JetBlue to task for sponsoring the convention-and the "Kossacks," as they call themselves, completely lost it when JetBlue took their logo off the sponsors list after feeling the heat from their customers. O'Reilly believes the Daily Kos is a hate website. Why? Because people on the site have called the Pope a "primate," hoped that Vice President Dick Cheney would have been assassinated in Afghanistan and wished White House spokesman Tony Snow would die (Snow has been fighting cancer). The list goes on.
O'Reilly suggested to Democratic Presidential candidates that they were getting in bed with the wrong bunch by associating with the Kos community and making an even bigger mistake by legitimizing the group by attending the conference last weekend.
The candidates ignored O'Reilly's warnings, and every major Democratic Presidential candidate except Sen. Joe Biden participated in a forum on Saturday where they talked progressive politics—and they all threw red meat to the crowd. Several candidates jumped at the opportunity to lash out at O'Reilly ( Watch video ). Senator Clinton said that Bill O'Reilly was "up to his old tricks" for trying to tell people not to come to Chicago ( Watch video ), and that she was proud of her campaign for going into "the lion's den" with O'Reilly (her advisor Howard Wolfson had appeared on the Factor to defend the Daily Kos). And she praised the Kos community for what they were doing for the progressive movement. Chris Dodd and General Wesley Clark also sniped at Bill and Fox News, while Sen. Edwards swore off the money of Washington lobbyists (but wouldn't refuse to stop taking money from hedge funds). Sen. Obama devoted his efforts to rail against the Iraq war and promised to spend more money on government-funded social programs.
The weekend was filled with panels and speakers on every imaginable secular-progressive topic. You might expect a "progressive" gathering would be a rainbow of racial diversity, but not this conference. For the most part, the only African-Americans I saw were the servers putting out lunch for their predominantly white audience. At one event, someone billed as a "comedian" did make some tasteless "jokes" about blacks, Jews and Indians. She justified the jokes by saying she was imitating her Iranian mother and that Iranians are "racist." Another "comedian" lampooned conservative columnist Robert Novak for converting to Christianity, saying people know better when he does his "Jew walk" down the aisle after getting "schmutz" on his forehead on Ash Wednesday. The audience was in stitches.
A recurring theme throughout the weekend was how much the attendees loved and supported the troops, but opposed the war. But at a panel called "Progressives and the Military: Are They That Different?", one panelist shouted down a soldier in uniform who had been waiting in line to ask a question-and it appeared the Kos audio people cut the soldier's microphone ( Watch video ). Unfortunately for the Kos censors, the Factor camera was rolling and caught it all on tape. Sgt. David Aguina, who did two tours in Iraq, wanted to ask the panelists about why the number of deaths has declined since the surge started in Iraq. The panelist, John Soltz, who is in the military, cut Aguina off because supposedly he didn't want him making political comments while in uniform. He brought the soldier to a back room afterward, "got in his face" and was "threatening," according to Sgt. Aguina. The panel never did address the question.
As of this writing, Soltz hasn't apologized to the soldier. People on the Daily Kos website are wondering "whether or not this guy was just a civilian wingnut" while another was calling him "self-indulgent" and "self-righteous" for raising the question.
At another panel, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero accused the U.S. government of torturing John Walker Lindh ( Watch video )—Lindh was the San Francisco native who converted to Islam and was aligned with the terrorists who were fighting and killing US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan and interrogated at a prison by CIA operative Mike Spann. Spann was killed later the same day by Lindh's comrades after an uprising at the prison where he questioned Lindh. The ACLU group didn't discuss that part of the story. Nor did they discuss or address any of the dangers posed by radical Islamic terrorists.
However, they are ready to crack down on one group—the Bush administration. They want the Bush team impeached at a minimum, and some were calling for them to be put behind bars. One questioner proposed a war crimes trial to Mr. Romero, but Romero preferred a domestic criminal option that could put Bush officials in jail after they have left office. "Impeach" stickers and "Bush/Cheney War Criminals" t-shirts were crowd favorites.
One thing from the weekend is clear—the Democratic Presidential candidates and the mainstream press have given enormous credibility to the Kos community by their coverage and attendance in Chicago. The Kos community is a potent and growing force, but are ordinary Americans really sympathetic to a worldview full of rage and hate? We will have to wait until 2008 to find out.
Porter Berry has been a producer for the O'Reilly Factor since 2005. Prior to joining Fox News, Berry was a fimmaker in Los Angeles for ten years. He received a B.A. in Economics from Texas Christian University in 1993. Berry was born and raised in Oklahoma City and now lives with his wife in New York City.