Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dust Up at Yearly Kos

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I alluded earlier to an occurrence at Yearly Kos, which has been widely circulated throughout the web, particularly the right wing blogosphere, where they seemed to hope they had found their own “macaca” moment for the left. Detailed first-hand accounts of the incident are found here and here. The video is here.

Interestingly, I ended up talking to the guy – twice! The first time was on the night of the opening keynote speech by Howard Dean, when he entered the food line right behind me dressed in full military uniform. The second was on the last morning, shortly after I had read about the incident and guessed he was the person involved, as he happened to be sitting at the table next to me. The following are my impressions from those conversations:

When he walked up behind me on the opening night, he certainly stood out from the rest of the crowd. Wondering about his affiliations, I introduced myself and asked him how he ended up coming to the convention. He said he was there because he wanted to see what it was all about. He said he supported the war in Iraq because he had been there and he “was really concerned about the Iraqi people.” He said that he wanted “to be available to answer questions” about his side of the issue. I wondered how he intended to do that, but merely wished him luck and began to fill my plate.

At the time of that brief conversation, I got the sense from his speech and demeanor that he was sincere and earnest about his attendance at the convention, but also a bit brainwashed and cultish, as if he were seriously expecting to win converts to his view simply by repeating talking points, kind of like a Hari Krishna chant. I’m no psychologist, so these are just my impressions, but he seemed like a likeable nut to me. [Note: This impression was solidified when I finally got to see the video and heard his conviction backed up by repeated offers to give anyone who could refute him “all the money in his pocket!”]

On the last morning, during the Bloggers’ Brunch, I was scanning the tubes while lines of bloggers took turns making little speeches or asking questions of the panel that, with only a few exceptions, merely served as excuses to say their screen name and hopefully get a little applause from the crowd.

I read about the incident during the military panel between Jon Soltz and a young sergeant in uniform who confronted the panel. I did not have a chance to see the video of the incident, so I didn’t know who the guy might me, but I noticed the fellow I had met the first night sitting at the table next to mine. He was in a suit and tie at that point, but I recalled my first meeting and assumed that it must have been the guy. As I later learned, he was Sgt. David Aguina, currently a student at Western Illinois University.

At the end of the brunch, as people were starting to leave, I walked over just as another guy was approaching him. As it turned out, this other guy was also ex-military and the three of us proceeded to talk about what had happened. Aguina, apparently now active in the reserves, was repeating many of the same talking points that I had heard before, but he also said that he agreed with 90% what was presented at the convention, and that all he really cared about was that the Iraqi people were provided with “a safe haven” from further war.

Aguina was still really steamed at Soltz, however, as he insisted that he knew Soltz had broken numerous sections of the Code of Military Justice, just as he had! Aguina said we was going to offer reconciliation, but that he was willing to sacrifice himself and his career “to take Soltz down” if his offer was rebuked. [Note: He later gave this interview, further explaining his views]

The other ex-military gentleman was clearly not in alignment with Aguina’s political views (judging from his “Cheney, Satan ‘08” T-shirt, and numerous antiwar buttons), but he seemed sympathetic to Aguina’s predicament. He thought Aguina would be in some jeopardy with the military for his actions, and he offered some supportive suggestions on how he might defend himself.

At this point, I offered him good luck with the reconciliation effort, and I left feeling that Aguina was basically a good guy, but consistent with my initial impression, something of a likable nut.

My only regret was that I didn’t see the video before I talked to him, so I could ask the burning question: How much money did you have in your pocket?

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