Liveblogging: The APIA Presidential Townhall Forum [Updated]

Live from the University of California, I am here to give you instantaneous word on the activities of the APIA Presidential Townhall Forum going on right now. It’s 1pm, and I just got here. Volunteers, press, and community leaders are quietly milling around – HRC has a outreach table all set and as of this moment, the McCain and Obama tables are still empty. A group of Cambodian veterans just walked in and a small group of Pacific Islanders sit quietly in the corner.

If you want to check out the activities for the day – you too can join in. The Punjabi community has generously donated internet space – you can access the live feed at the Passion for Truth website here. I’ll be back with word as the day goes forward – but as of now there will be a Clinton simulcast and an Obama phone call. I’ll keep you posted!***** I just walked around talking and meeting old and new friends. Community leaders from groups like SAALT, NAPAWF, APALA, National CAPACD are around – it’s good to see everyone here from across the nation here in Southern California. I give them all buttons that say “vote” in 7 different languages.

Congressman Mike Honda just walked in. He of course, is smiling as always.

Actress Tamlyn Tomita (Stargate fans are drooling now, huh?) is MCing the beginning part of the event. So far the folks who performed were spoken word group Zero 3, the band Seriously, and some other UCI acts. But EVERYone is on edge waiting for Kaba Modern – of the MTV Dance Show fame. I walked by them as they were practicing in the hallway. I got kind of excited too. Then I saw Norman Mineta walk by and I got excited all over again too.

CA State Controller John Chiang just stepped to the podium to introduce Hilary Clinton. Only a small group of ten cheered for HRC when Chiang mentioned her name right now. Who would have figured with the way CA APIA’s voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in our Feb primaries. She will be here via video telecast. Apparently, they gave the candidates questions ahead of time, and she will be incorporating the questions in her speech.

Clinton is on screen! And just congratulated John Chiang!

She says, “Recently I pushed in the Senate for Filipino veterans… I urged the House to pass the legislation…I rely on the community for advice on the campaign…”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform – “we need a system that is fair…Our current immigration status is in crisis…I’ll ensure we protect the sanctity of families.”

Healthcare – “That’s why I’ve proposed a universal health care plan… that would eliminate ethnic disparities…and provide funds for cultural competent health care professionals.” [She's at least hitting all the key words for APIA health care - cultural competency, diversity, ethnic disparities]

Housing – “It is my goal that all Americans have access to affordable housing…”

Senior Level Representatives that are APIA’s – “I am committed to recruiting and hiring APIA’s into the government.”

Education – “When it comes to measuring the success of our students, we cannot take a one size fits all approach.”

So I’m not really that great at transcribing on the spot. But I tried! Nothing spectacular was mentioned. I think she was most on point for the health care topic – I think she covered every aspect of cultural relevance for the topic. Her housing issues was also well covered, but her education view point was WEAK. Total was about 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes.

So, Obama is supposed to call in. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t even make it to do a telecast the way Clinton did.

Hon. Congressman Xavier Becerra is introducing Obama. Dynamic speaker and I just did a double take – he’s kind of Villaraigosa-esque. Community members are sitting on stage. Everyone is just kind of waiting for Obama to call in.

OMG! Obama is on phone!! And they thanked the APIA Vote board! He’s thanking is Asian American supporters in CA. “I wish I could be there with you but we are not done yet.” At least he’s in Oregon campaigning.

He just got a big applause for being born in Hawaii. See, he’s Asian (kinda) too.

He’s thanking people who did multilingual phonebanking for his campaign.[And yes, he mentioned "South Asian" languages"] “Part of what our campaign is about is bringing people into the process … and making sure their issues are heard…I’m grateful to all of you…”

Healthcare – “I want to put out a healthcare plan that is affordable… that emphasizes regular check ups and screenings… in a way that is culturally component.”

Voting Rights – “This is something I’ve been working on since i was a voting rights lawyer in Chicago.” How often do we ever here anyone bring up the voting rights of people of color? Maybe it’s because I’m wonk for voting rights, but this is so exciting!

Immigration Reform – “To the extent that we fix the legal immigration system, this is something I want to fix.”

Education – At least he’s acknowledging the disparities in education – we need to improve k-12. He totally is hitting education on the head MUCH better then Clinton did. He knows that that APIAs are not all educated!

Veterans – He supports API Veterans and cosponsored the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. I’m sitting next to the Cambodian vets – they all applauded. Too bad he didn’t fly back to DC to actually vote on the bill even though he co-sponsored it.

Oh heck yeah! Obama is taking questions live – that is SO much more interactive then what Clinton did. Community leaders are going to the podium to ask questions now….

Aloha. The next questions is, “What is the US government going to do for the reconciliation of Hawaiians?” It’s his home state, he should understand the issues of Native Hawaiian youth on the islands, I would imagine. The Native Hawaiian Reconciliation is a big issue for people in the islands.

Love it. The woman asking the question next just said that Obama was attractive before she asked the question. She has nerves.

He’s a strong supporter of the Dream Act – that got a huge applause. He wants to do a Federal Dream Act. Wants to help reduce barriers for the nation’s immigrants.

Got another big applause when he said he wanted his Chinese/Indonesian/HAPA niece running around the front lawn. It’s important for APIA groups to work with Latino orgs and the NAACP to work on immigration issues, he said.

Oh! The next woman is asking the voter ID question, in light of the new ruling that the Supreme Court passed in Indiana saying it was legal to ask voters for ID last week. She mentions the fact that 27 million Americans do not have access to IDs. He opposes policies that ask for mandatory ID showing at the polling place. He will sign into law that requires transparency into state voting laws. “We shouldn’t be scaring voters, we should be bringing them to the polls.”

Oh my gosh. The call just ended. I know that was just a phone call, but that was pretty darn exciting. He answered the questions on the spot by community members that I kick it with – that’s pretty cool. That was like 30 minutes.

I wonder how they are going to deal with McCain and if he’s sending a surrogate.

CA Assemblyman Van Tran is representing McCain’s office – he’s on the Advisory Committee of Asian Americans for McCain’s campaign. He just walked to the podium. This is like a big deal in the APIA community locally because Van Tran is…well, he’s a community leader that has some controversy around him. But he’s a nice guy – I met him recently. He’s just really hesitant in signing on to CA legislation and a low voting record.

Anyways, he’s talking about voting… and why APIA’s should get involved. Blah, blah, what’s your candidate going to do for us? WHAT? He’s not able to be here because he’s doing a LIVE SHOW ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE? We got shafted for SNL??? That is WHACK!

National Security. That’s the first issues that Tran just dropped. And people are now noisily and slowly drifting out of the Bren Center.

On the issues of taxes and spending, “McCain will cut taxes and stop the outrageous wasteful spending in Washington DC.”

McCain will use free market system to address healthcare issues. Of course he will.

Ok. Well that’s all I can take of this and my laptop is about to die. I hope you enjoyed my play by play of the APIA Townhall Presidential Forum. Personally, I was very apprehensive, but it turned out better then I expected. More to come…

[UPDATE: 24 Hours Later...]

So what is one of the worst things that can happen to a blogger when live blogging an event? My power chord short circuited! It was minor in the scheme of things, but major when you have to blog a 6 hour event. But I do feel a summary is needed.

It’s a day later and I’ve had some time to digest the activities of the jam packed day. Overall, it was better then I expected – albeit I was initially apprehensive. So it didn’t take much. Altogether, about 2,000 people showed up to the event, and the feed was broadcasted around the world. And of course, it was great to see everyone from across the nation congregating locally in my neighborhood instead of in DC.

As for the candidates, it was disappointing to see that none of the candidates made the effort to come out to this historic event. Even more disappointing that McCain did SNL – and he wasn’t even a guest, he just did a cameo of two skits! Someone at the event said it best when they said that all three candidates did TV simulcasts for Smackdown the Vote, and then cited technical difficulties when it came to doing TV simulcasts for the APIA community. Meaning — hard-working white wrestling watching Americans are of higher values then the APIA ones. Not that APIA’s can’t watch wrestling. But still.

I would have to say though that Obama won hands down for the day. Though everyone was excited that Hillary Clinton did a TV broadcast, it just seemed so canned to me. The speech we watched was only 10 minutes, and could have been pre-recorded for all we knew. There was no interaction – she just incorporated the town hall questions into the speech. Barack Obama on the other hand did his talk via phone. He had an initial speech that was far less fact filled then Clinton’s (it sounded like it was more off the cuff), but the second half of his speech I LOVED. He basically stuck around to field SIX questions from different community members and his time “on stage” was well over 30 minutes.

As for issues – Clinton of course was on top of her game for healthcare, no surprise there. And she dropped all the right APIA words in that arena. Obama, though also dropping “culturally competent,” was all about cutting costs to make healthcare accessible to all. I think this universal healthcare vs accessible healthcare issue is one area that a deep difference between the candidates on policy issues is vibrantly apparent. But Obama was far more on game when it came to education and voting rights. Obama supports the federal Dream Act, and was far more articulate in describing his education policy reform. And Clinton didn’t even mention voting rights whereas Obama talked about how asking for voter ID is bad and how states need better transparency when it comes to voting laws.

As for McCain. Well, he thought so little of the event he didn’t even bother to send outreach materials – his table remained bare between the manned Obama and Clinton tables. And sending Van Tran in his stead was also a poor choice. Even though he is an up and coming local Republican politician, he hardly had the national clout to get anyone excited. Everyone walked out when he was talking. Tran’s speech also didn’t address any of the key questions that were posed to the candidate and kept the speech generically Republican — National Security, Taxes, War, blah, blah. Nothing mentioned was APIA related the least bit.

So altogether for the day, not great, but good and better then what I expected. I also didn’t realize just how cumbersome it is to offer commentary as events are transpiring – apologize to those that actually followed along as I liveblogged! But it was fun, and I’ll definitely will be open to liveblog for you guys again!

For another perspective of the day’s events, check out Oiyan’s post on Daily Kos.

This entry was posted in Politics by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates and blogs at Follow her at

14 thoughts on “Liveblogging: The APIA Presidential Townhall Forum [Updated]

  1. HRCs speech sounds kind of generic. It doesn’t get too specific about the APIA community. It almost sounds like a default when I speak to people of color speech. It’s universal and covers immigrant issues. I don’t think she really knows the issues within the APIA community. I wonder if she knows what APIA stands for….hmmm? Her response to the forth question sounded like “oh, I have Asian friends see….” Well at least she spoke to our community. As long as we don’t get another Bush in office, then all is good.

  2. See black is closer to yellow and brown. He understands our peeps, either that or he has an account with…. hmmm i wonder? AzNOBAMA143?

  3. obama is awesome…. he’s for the dream act, he’s from hawaii, he’s for addressing disparities in health, and he’s good looking, damn!!! i wish i was him.

  4. Yay, with each utterance he makes, I love him more. He seems like a sensible and reasonable person, and he is principled enough to say what he believes. I don’t care if he delivers, he’s the first mainstream candidate in my lifetime that is even saying all the right things.

  5. 7 · SSK said

    Yay, with each utterance he makes, I love him more. He seems like a sensible and reasonable person, and he is principled enough to say what he believes. I don’t care if he delivers, he’s the first mainstream candidate in my lifetime that is even saying all the right things. Saying is a little different from delivering the results.
  6. Saying is a little different from delivering the results.

    I’d change that to saying is the first step towards delivering the results.

  7. 9 · sunil said

    Saying is a little different from delivering the results.
    I’d change that to saying is the first step towards delivering the results.

    Not to be cynical buddy, but Washington will change Obama (not the other way around).

  8. I don’t care if Obama delivers, he’s the first mainstream candidate in my lifetime that is even saying all the right things.

    I’ll say what I said about the Congress in India during the 2004 elections. At that time, I said that regardless of who wins, Congress or BJP, nothing will really change. The agenda is set by events that are out of control of politicians. They can say what they want, promise what they like – but as long as they just talk and don’t do anything different from the BJP, I don’t care if the Congress wins.

    And that’s exactly what has happened. Congress has carried out BJP’s policies better than BJP could. And nobody bats an eyelid, because all the naysayers were barking up the Hindutva tree, whereas the true agendas were silently being continued.

    Coming back to Obama, he can say all he wants and promise change, but as long as it’s just for public consumption and winning the elections, but not doing anything different in office, I’m happy with the dude. We’ll have to see a couple of years down the line – and I think what will happen is that he’ll come in, cut the usual deals, and do exactly what was done before. In the next elections when people question him, he’ll say: “I tried to change things – but what has been entrenched for fifty years cannot be removed in four years. So please, give me four more years“. And I will vote for him again then. But only if he’s gone into Iran and Syria.

    M. Nam

  9. And I will vote for him again then. But only if he’s gone into Iran and Syria.

    You want the US to invade Syria and Iran?

  10. And I will vote for him again then. But only if he’s gone into Iran and Syria.

    If Obama is taking random requests, can he also jump into a headstand during his state of the union, as well as administer a beatdown to those snotty whale eaters on the Faroe Islands?

  11. Taz, I enjoyed reading your liveblog. (Although I was able to follow it ‘live’ for only part of the time you were blogging). Thanks, congratulations, and welcome back to SM.

    I wasn’t on SM when you were last blogging here as a masthead blogger Mutineer, but I’ve read some of your posts in the archives, and was quite impressed, and I cited your post on the 100th Anniversary of Satyagraha a couple times in some of my comments. I remember visiting your blog at the time. I also remember someone commenting that in one of your pics/avatars you totally represented grrlpower for him, and fully agreeing with him!

    Look forward to reading more of your posts here.