Begala at 'Rising From the Ashes'
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Just got back from the 'Rising From The Ashes' event in NYC. The turnout was smaller than we expected
(the 900-seat Great Hall of Cooper Union was only about 3/4 full, but the crowd in attendance was clearly
hungry for good news from the speakers.

Paul Begala was the highlight of the night, and believe me when I tell you he was raging nearly as hard as his
friend Carville. He started off with a very funny story about riding out to the Carville farm with James and
Mary arguing. He said that as Carville got more worked up, he drove faster, until they were pulled over
for doing 95 in Carville's Escalade. James apparently was pretty snippy with the cop, who asked Matalin
if Carville was always that confrontational. To which Matalin replied, 'Only when he's drunk, officer'.

After that ice-breaker, he hit the ground running with a back-handed compliment for Smirk. He noted that
Smirk was against multilateralism (until Powell had to build a coaltition for him), 'nation-building' (until the
coalition brought him round to helping Afghanistan), the peace process in Israel (until realpolitik forced him
to re-engage), and Clinton's 'hollowed-out military' (until they went to Afghanistan and kicked ass). Begala
said that Smirk, who 'honored Clinton' by embracing so many of his positions, should be commended for
doing the right thing. As you can guess, his tongue was buried deep in his cheek when he said that.

He showed off his 'dimpled chad' cufflinks, which provided a neat segue into the 2000 election debacle.
His list of targets were wide-reaching - K. Harris, Paul Gigot (for his 'bourgoise riot' comment - he said
'What would he have called it if it were Jesse Jackson disrupting a legal vote count?'), 'banana Republicans',
and the Supreme Court's issuance of a 'one-time-only' ruling.

He said a lot of people want us to forget what happened last year - and he said, I'm from Texas, where guys
still drive around with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks with bumper stickers that say 'Forget, Hell!'
They think they can still remember a war they lost 150 years ago, and they want me to forget what happened
last year? Forget, hell!!!!'

Then he launched into what's gone on since 9/11 - starting with the imprisonment of John Solomon and working
through to Ashcroft's dismantling of the Bill of Rights. His anger overtook his usually genial demeanor as he talked
about how Bush and Ashcroft - 'The Bob Jones Twins' - were taking unnecessary action with their Executive/Military
orders and the USA-PATRIOT act. He pointed out that our justice system had a 100% conviction rate when they
tried terrorists in 'open and legal courts of law'. His voice rose dramatically, and you could hear how the thought
of what Ashcroft and Smirk are doing pissed him off.

When he brought up the military tribunal issue and started talking about it, one audience member interrupted him
repeatedly by saying 'Hillary supports them!'. He asked the man what he said, and the man again shouted,
'Hillary supports them!' Begala rejoined, 'Well, I ain't Hillary!'

Begala listed what Ashcroft has done to our rights, saying that it was fear-mongering, pure and simple.
And he voiced hope for the future - 'That's why I think our side will prevail - because we are on the
side of freedom, while they are on the side of fear'.

And he ended by attacking Ashcroft's opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week,
where he accused those who criticized the administration as aiding terrorism. He said, 'If that's aiding
terrorism, then Ashcroft can come up here, slap the cuffs on me and take me away, because I ain't gonna stop!'

Begala was on his game tonight - I only wish there was a conservative there for him to debate.
He would have ripped the opposition to shreds.

Bad news - the expected meeting with Atrios didn't come about (sorry, A), but Paul Begala led a group
of forceful speakers whose overall message was echoed in a quote from Jesse Jackson -
'We can get bitter, or we can get better'.

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