Murkowski herself, through the way she conducted the forum, sought to ease troubled people as she sometimes did well, trying to answer questions from the audience. The professionalism of her staff almost immediately showed when questions from people who couldn't be seated in the auditorium because of the overflow were brought to her, without fanfare, within the first half hour of the event.
Some of the overall questions and selections of people to be heard appeared a bit too pat, though. Someone might look into that.
I'm a single payer system advocate, if you haven't figured that out already, so I am at odds with a lot of the material her staff presented as handouts to attendees, and what Murkowski then detailed in her introductory remarks.
And I'm at huge odds with Murkowski on a host of other issues having to do with her enabling of President Bush's robbery of so many of our constitutional freedoms.
Here are some enumerated observations from the forum:
1) It's easy to see why she is the most popular politician in Alaska right now. Unlike the crazy lady, she failed to make a snarky, 8th grade, divisive, self-serving statement all night. Well, scratch the "self-serving." But Murkowski seems to realize that she is currently Alaska's most prominent representative in political life, and that an adult is needed to do that.
2) I'm getting better at spotting different groups from within the teabagger community. It is diverse, and some of the people involved in this amorphous mirage of a faux new revolution are good people. Being from the Valley, I know a lot of them. None of the nuttier ones were there tonight, and I only spotted two paid astroturfers, but they didn't say anything.
3) Although I'm more skeptical every day the health care dialogue continues, that we'll get what the country needs, I was impressed at how many questions were worth asking. The crowd was more conservative than I had expected, but the medical profession field was well represented from among those who asked Sen. Murkowski questions or who had valuable comments.
4) As already noted, the staff work was excellent. And Murkowski seems to have successfully convinced the Alaska media and some national figures that she is reaching out more to Alaskans on this than is her colleague, Sen. Mark Begich. .
5) The meeting was webcast and carried live on Anchorage's KBYR-AM. Afterward, KBYR ran Glenn Biegel, their most doctrinaire conservative local commentator for the rest of the 8:00 hour, fielding comments. The most widely read Alaska progressive blog, The Mudflats, live-blogged the forum. Murkowski's staff seems to have had a major hand in the video and audio coverage. The Alaska Public Radio Network, the Anchorage TV news crews, and my colleague Dennis Zaki from The Alaska Report were there too.
Even though I had to leave early, I was able to hear much of the rest of the debate and KBYR's coverage.
6) Don Young is in mourning, but he has a responsibility to make some pubic appearances, and answer questions publicly on health care before he returns to work.
Update I: Sean Cockerham's Anchorage Daily News article on the forum.
Update II: Linda Kellen, in her overnight post on the forum, notes:
I did not make it tonight, but I've gotten some email feedback from folks who were there that the majority of the speakers were clearly prearranged and reading from prepared material. These are a couple of the people quoted for Sean Cockerham's ADN article:
Dr. Ilona Farr
--Owner of Frigid North and well-known Conservative
--Appointed by Sarah Palin to the State Officers Compensation Commission
--Donor to SarahPAC
--Ran for Anchorage Assembly
And here is a comment posted at The Mudflats late yesterday evening, by Writing from Alaska:
images - Sen. Murkowski coming onstage; the overflow at 6:05
I just got home and sat through the whole thing. My impressions are somewhat different than others here, I think. She started out by using her handouts to show on a graph why health care reform is absolutely necessary based on the increasing and unsustainable costs. She advocated for making sure that people in places like Alaska could actually get health care – saying that having a card that said you are entitled to care and having a health care provider are not the same thing. The card will do you no good if you live in rural Alaska and have no one to provide you with health care.
She talked about the great complexity of the problem, about different proposals that had been made, about the legislative process and never talked down to her audience or pandered to the negativity, though I agree that she could have corrected a couple of folks on some ridiculous comments, but she did keep to the topic of health care.
She advocated for incentives for more people to go into health care fields including nurse practitioners, nurses and others who fill the gaps in places like Alaska rural villages where no doctor is willing to work and live.
Bottom line for Murkowski seemed to be – we can’t ignore this issue or wait for it to go away – it has to be dealt with. Health care reform has to happen but is it just health insurance or is it also health providers, tort reform, increased reimbursements for medicare and other issues? And she says wants to take the time to do it thoroughly and so that it will benefit Alaskans and other rural states.
That was my take – and I have said before and will say again – I may not agree with her, but thank God for Republicans like Lisa Murkowski who has a brain and is willing to use it. I felt she was reassuring the more ‘conservative’ folks by listening to them while clearly conveying the message that health care reform is something that needs to happen for the good of the everyone – - one of the things she said was that it can’t be solved by the Democrats alone, because it isn’t a problem that only applies to Democrats – neither is it a Republican problem that needs a Republican solution. – I rather like that -