April 17, 2008

Conservatives Where?

Penn State Abington (suburban Philly) hosted a lunch time forum billed as, "Red vs Blue - The State of Moral Values in America" today.

Though not covered as widely as the Clinton v Obama debate last night, the room was filled (120 approximately) to hear Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart debate a variety of issues. Yours truly was one of the attendees. I'm not sure, but I believe a similar debate forum was held by the same two in 2005.

Goldberg is a leading conservative journalist and a founding editor of National Review Online. Beinart is a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, editor-at-large at the New Republic, and NPR regular.

Though the topic strayed off the Moral Values platform frequently, the debate was more in-depth than the top-of-the-democrat-ticket battle last night. Issues included global warming, the role of government in our lives, and health care.

I expected Beinart to drop a series of Bill-Maher-like insults, playing to the college crowd. That didn't happen. Beinart instead seemed nervous and tight, though I admit, I don't know much about his normal demeanor, not being an NPR fan. It was Goldberg who seemed loose, dropping the forum's best lines.

Beinart started the event with the usual "we agree on most issues, just not the best way to resolve them" line. An obligatory statement attempting to show the parallels between the two competing views. But when he all-but blamed Bush for causing Katrina, he showed early desperation.

Jonah jumped on Pete's gaff by throwing the first punchline.
"Despite what others may think, if Al Gore or John Kerry were President, Katrina would have still hit New Orleans."

Then, to my surprise, the crowd erupted in laughter. Imagine, college students enjoying a conservative retort to leftist talking points about Katrina. I was proud of my fellow classmates.

The tone had been set and in this conservative's view, the audience received Goldberg much better than his friendly rival. Even the questioning by the audience had a right-of-center feel to it. Several questions about global warming and high fuel prices didn't follow a typical college-crowd line.

Instead, one attendee's question focused on high fuel taxes contributing to high energy prices instead of the paltry 8 cents per gallon profit oil companies make. While another (OK, I was holding the mic) questioned the motives of global warming alarmist and profiteer Al Gore, in the debate. Neither question raised a single syllable of protest from other audience members.

Seems funny to this writer, when there isn't much fanfare surrounding a forum or town hall type event, the debate appears a lot more genuine, not contrived or planned. No planted questions, no anti-war protests. Civil, respectful, and won by the better argument.

College campuses have long been know as liberal bastions. But today, on a suburban Philadelphia college campus, conservative views have audiences captivated.

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