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Gareth Porter and Dennis Trainor on the election

Gareth Porter and Dennis Trainor talk with Paul Jay about the meaning of this election


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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to Real News live coverage from the McClatchy offices in Washington, DC. Joining me now is Gareth Porter. Gareth is an investigative journalist and historian, or sometimes calls himself an investigative historian—investigative historian.


JAY: Dennis Trainor is also joining us. Dennis is known on YouTube by millions of people as the Hermit. Dennis has his own video blog and has been one of the breakthrough bloggers on YouTube. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: And as you can see, we’re watching the news with you, and we’ll put it back on just so we get some sense. So one of the things we’re going to do this evening—if I can control this properly—is we’re going to keep you tuned in to what’s happening in terms of mainstream corporate news coverage of the elections. We’ll be going back from CNN and MSNBC and some of the network coverage and Fox, and we’ll be discussing how they’re covering the news, as well as keeping you abreast of the results. So, so far, I think, just to keep people up date—and it wouldn’t surprise me if people at home are even a little more up-to-date than we are right now, ’cause we’re still sorting all this stuff out—the early story seems to be that Obama seems ahead in Indiana. And as the horse race unfolds, we’ll talk about it further. But before we get into the thick of the horse race, when there’s more results, let’s just talk about both your take on and what the meaning of this is tonight. Gareth, why don’t you kick us off?

PORTER: Well, it seems to me this is really a possibility for the first truly transformational election that we’ve had in generations in this country. And by that I mean an election that really makes for a major shift in more than one policy arena and is a long-term, fundamental shift. And I think what we could see, potentially, with both an Obama victory, a mandate, a significant mandate, and major shifts in both the House and Senate is a possibility (only a possibility) for not only, you know, some major shifts in economic policy, in terms of investment choices as well as regulatory policy, but also, of course, in the field of military national security policy, with regard particularly to the allocation of resources.

JAY: Dennis, you’ve been blogging for awhile, and I would say the theme of your blogging is that this is not going to be transformational if it’s just Obama [inaudible]

PORTER: Certainly I’ve been reminded time and again that my view is a minority view. I am a little bit more cynical. I think that the same market forces that can force us to buy bottled water that costs more than a gallon of gasoline brought us these two candidates. So if it does pan out that there’s a filibuster-proof Senate and a sweeping victory from Obama that gives him kind of a mandate—Naomi Klein talked, I thought, quite intelligently when you interviewed her about this, about the need for progressives in between the election and the inauguration to leverage the silence that they had displayed during this campaign. I think that more people are voting against McCain or voting against the Bush administration, and maybe they’re voting for what Barack Obama is selling, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can deliver that.

JAY: Well, hang on, hang on, hang on. You haven’t seen as much enthusiasm, I think, in a long time in people voting for somebody. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s been a long time since a president has had such a movement, whether you—.

TRAINOR: I travel in different circles. The circles I travel in, people are pulling their hair out trying to—they want—.

JAY: Okay, [inaudible] circles.

TRAINOR: I have small circles. I admit it.

JAY: You’re called the Hermit. Come on. Your circle is your webcam.

TRAINOR: Me and the webcam. So people are pulling their hair out. Well, people contact me, so I’m the Hermit, but people contact me all the time. They want so much to see this change that Obama wants to deliver.

JAY: Well, let’s break down what Gareth said. So why don’t you start with the economic issue? You said this is a possible transformative election, and you broke down various things. So what are your expectations in terms of economics?

PORTER: What I’m thinking here, of course, is that this is more or less a perfect storm in terms of the system that has existed, both in terms of, you know, the distribution of power and wealth in the country and in terms of the general orientation and ideology that guides our foreign policy and national security policy for generations now, really, and certainly from the Reagan time to the present. If you think of that as sort of the new American system of wealth and power, both at home and in the world, you know, we have a perfect storm here. We have meltdown of the American economy at the same time that you have a very clear demonstration of the impotence of the use of military power abroad. Now, I’m not suggesting that that message has crashed through in the mainstream media. And I want to make it clear that I bow to no one, including Dennis, in my cynicism about the way in which the system has worked and still has very strong possibilities for keeping itself going, you know, limping along for yet another generation in some sense. But at the same time, we have a lot of evidence here of massive failure, and in the past, at least, that has been a recipe for transformational change in politics. It hasn’t gone as far as, you know, it could have, certainly, and there’s a very powerful set of forces here that brake, that set brakes on political change of the kind that I’m talking about. So I want to make it clear that this is only a possibility—I’m not making a prediction that it will happen, by any means. And it would require the kind of organization and political consciousness on the part of aggressive movement that we have not seen yet.

JAY: Dennis, I know in your blog you were talking about essentially suggesting people should vote for Nader and saying that it really wouldn’t make that significant a difference if Obama won. So what do you say in terms of what Gareth is saying?

TRAINOR: Well, I wouldn’t say it would not make a significant difference if Obama won, but I guess I would agree that the ingredients for a perfect storm do exist. But Obama, as I listen to him and as I study him, hasn’t presented himself on someone who wants to capitalize or leverage the ingredients for that perfect storm. He’s willing to unilaterally chase al-Qaeda into countries with or without their permission. To me it seems like a Bush doctrine lite; it doesn’t seem like a radical change to me.

PORTER: Yeah. And let me just say I would not count on Obama personally to carry this through. I mean, it can’t simply be Obama—it won’t work. In the system, even a progressive president cannot do it by himself or herself. It just doesn’t work that way. There has to be a movement that, you know, puts pressure on for this to happen, and without that it’s simply not going to happen, I agree.

TRAINOR: So, as a symbolic event there is an opportunity, but I think the window of opportunity is a small one, you know, time-wise.

JAY: Well, Gareth, your main preoccupation has been US foreign policy, and on foreign policy it’s been kind of hard to distinguish between McCain and Obama. But you still seem a little more optimistic in this area.

PORTER: I think it’s a very murky situation for a couple of reasons—maybe more than a couple of reasons—in terms of understanding Obama’s behavior or predicting Obama’s behavior as a president. For one thing, clearly there is a sort of a necessity for any Democratic candidate—any candidate, period—to posture in a way that positions himself or herself, you know, in the center, at least in the center, if not to the right of center, on issues that don’t have anything to do with the military, that have anything to do with terrorism, all of those things that are such powerful symbolism politically in this country that you simply can’t get away with, you know, talking about things that really tell the truth on these issues. At least that’s the perception, and the perception is the reality in this case.

JAY: Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a short break. We’re going to run a little promo, and one of the reasons we’re going live tonight is, we hope not naggingly, but to ask for donations. As you know, we don’t take corporate funding, and we don’t take government funding, and we don’t accept advertising, which means we need you and we need viewer funding. So we’re going to run a little promo here, and then, when we come back, we’re going to show you just a little bit of what’s happening on television for those of yous that are just on The Real News, though I imagine a lot of you have a TV over here and the computer over here. And we’ll be back in just a few minutes. Thank you.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.