The Tom McCall Forum, sponsored by Pacific University, began in 1982, and has continued all the way through last week. Each year, two distinguished national political figures come out to Forest Grove and answer questions from students, then in the evening have the actual debate. Some of the better known guests in the past have been Molly Ivins, William Kristol, Bill Bradley, David Gergen, Ralph Nader, Newt Gingrich, Ralph Reed, Alan Dershowitz, James Carville, Mary Matalin, William Safire, John Sununu, Pierre Salinger, Robert Bork, Jesse Jackson, Mario Cuomo, and Dan Quayle.
This year, the guests were Howard Dean and Richard Perle. I was pretty happy about that, since not only were the guests the newly-minted head of the Democratic Party and a leading neocon thinker, I got a free ticket courtesy of the Political Science Department! Huzzah!
First, there was the question and answer session. While some interesting questions were asked by the students, neither Dean nor Perle seemed interested in saying anything of real significance.
After a delicious dinner at the Hilton (compared to cafeteria food, anyway), we moved to the Schnitzer for the real debate. The candidates were introduced, great applause for Dean, lukewarm applause for Perle (this is deeply blue Portland, Oregon), and the candidates had just gotten started when the shoe thrower came.
This guy in a yellow jacket sprints down the aisle and throws his shoe at Perle. His first throw misses badly, rebounding off the stage and coming back to him. So he tries again. This time he at least connects with the podium, but fails to hit his target. Security is very slow in responding, and so a few members of the audience, including the university President and the head of the board of trustees take him down. The protester screams various forms of profanity, eventually settling on calling Richard Perle a whore as he is escorted out of the building. Unfortunately, from my seat I could not ascertain whether or not he departed shoeless, or had brought a second pair of shoes for the express purpose of throwing.
Needless to say, that was the most exciting part of the debate. While the Portland crowd wasn't going to give Perle a chance, I thought he did a good job of articulating the vision, as scary as that may be. "Using the failure to find WMD's to justify opposing the war in Iraq is like deciding that you shouldn't have bought fire insurance for the past year since your house didn't burn down." (I paraphrase.) The audience didn't like that comment too much. And to me, a debate that is about foreign policy post 9/11 that doesn't touch on Israel and Palestine is failing to fully address the subject. But in general it was a good look at two very different viewpoints of how the United States should deal with the hotspots in today's world.
the list of older candidates was grabbed from www.pacificu.edu/news_events/events/forum