Thursday, May 11, 2006


Meeting with Clinton's staff

Seven members of the New York Roots Project met with Hillary Clinton's Deputy State Director, Christine Falvo, Wednesday afternoon. We had previously posted on our efforts to meet with both Clinton and Chuck Schumer's staff in New York City. We had received no response from Hillary's office to our requests to meet and refused to let us up to the her office without a prior appointment - a disappointing experience, but one that was powerfully conveyed to the net via FireDogLake and a video post at Crooks & Liars; Glenn Greenwald has also played a large role in The Roots Project's actions. That action allowed us to get this meeting with Christine.

We decided we wanted to talk with Christine about net neutrality, censuring Bush for his extralegal surveillance of Americans, and the possibility of Bush taking military action against Iran. We submitted a list of questions as well as a handful of relevant articles for Christine to read over. She promised to have response to our questions at the meeting.

In short the meeting went about how we expected. Christine sat on the fence and was non-committal throughout -- she doesn't hold a policy position and could only relay our comments to the relevant staff members. We talked for an hour about net neutrality, censure, and possible military action against Iran and heard the vague responses she'd been prepared with by policy staffers. The vast majority of the time we talked and she listened. The few times we pressed her for specific answers were unsuccessful - I couldn't even get her to admit that she personally thought Bush was acting illegally with his domestic wiretapping program.

We didn't learn anything new, but hopefully we imparted some wisdom in Christine that she can take back to her coworkers. We left her with a copy of Crashing the Gate, as well as a short list of important blogs. Interestingly, she became most intrigued about our list of blogs when she found out they reach a couple million people combined every day.

Meetings with constituents can help move staff attitudes faster than emails or faxes ever will, which is why they're a critical aspect of The Roots Project's efforts to extend the influence of the blogosphere into off-line action. Maybe we won't get the response we want at our first meeting, but we'll keep going back and keep pressing.

Go visit your senators and congressmen. Visit their home offices, but if you can get to DC you're more likely to be able to talk to someone who actually can weigh in from a policy perspective. Keep pushing the actions The Roots Project started with: calling local radio stations and writing letters to the editor. These are simple actions we can do without sacrificing days at work, without going beyond the commitments we already make to blogging.

As Pachacutec has said, we're doing open source lobbying. We can push meaningful change if we get out from behind our computer screens and organize together.

One point of clarification - I was not involved in the first visit to HRC's office that produced the video. This post is trying to capture the narrative leading up to yesterday's meeting as well as the meeting itself. I became involved after seeing the work of RP New Yorkers in the video and feeling their frustration at not being able to get a meeting with a Clinton staffer.
I was surprised that Christine was unfamiliar with Crashing the Gates. Dropping off a copy had more than symbolic value. OTOH, she had read the TAP strategy piece.

The foxhole mentality that Feingold has described was certainly present. She won't, for example, take action on censure until there is "an investigation." We pointed out A) that there will be no investigation and B) at this point, it would be superfluous. She had no real answer to that.
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