By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
This may explain why, for all his talk about “getting stuff done” instead of fighting, Boyd shows so little interest in compromise, even in an interview. On cultural issues, he comes across as an illiberal liberal, and dismisses any counterarguments as “baloney.” (“Baloney” seems to be one of his favorite words.) His adversarial stance is also on display when asked whether there are any journalists on the right whose views he finds worthy of respect. It’s a standard question, and one Democrats usually find easy enough to answer. (“Well, Bill Safire’s usually interesting,” they’ll say. “Christopher Caldwell’s always good. Hell, these days I even agree with Pat Buchanan on some things . . .”) But Boyd, who has no problem promoting Michael Moore, mutters darkly about people “who are just playing the game to be outrageous. You know, the Bill O’Reillys, the Ann Coulters . . .”
“But that’s kind of the white trash of journalism,” I point out. “I mean serious conservatives who have a view that disagrees with your own. Who do you listen to? Who do you read?”
“I won’t go there,” Boyd answers. “I won’t name anybody.”
“I just don’t want to call anybody out.”
“But I mean people you respect, not people you’re trying to insult,” I say, genuinely puzzled at this point.
What follows is a prolonged silence, during which Boyd ostentatiously looks at his watch and then glares at me. His eyes look like chips of blue ice. I can’t decide if he’s annoyed because he can’t think of an answer — perhaps he never reads the opposing side? — or because he finds the question offensive in and of itself.
“No one?” I ask finally.
“I’m not going to call anybody out,” he reiterates. “I’m not going to validate anybody.”
Shortly after this, the phone rings and Boyd picks up: The conference call has come through, and the interview is over. Blades, who came in halfway through the conversation and has been clicking away on a laptop at another desk, nervously ushers me out of the room and back into the main part of the house. Now wearing a black MoveOn T-shirt with the words “November 2” printed on it in white letters, she’s being very friendly, as if to make up for the distinct chill emanating from her husband.
I ask about the house, and she tells me it was built in the 1920s, that its style is known as “romantic revival,” that it is furnished largely in “grandmother” (hand-me-downs), and that she and Boyd bought it for $224,000 16 years ago, before they had made their fortune. She does most of her own gardening, and when she goes to take care of her ailing mother on the other side of Berkeley, she goes by bicycle. It’s a busy life, and MoveOn is only a part of it. “I do my best,” she says. “The kids and the dog come first, and then my mom, and then the garden. I’m afraid the garden’s going to suffer this year.”
A few minutes later, Boyd shows up, his mood apparently improved, and says that he can spare me another 10 minutes or so if I want to talk a little longer. We go back to his office, and this time he’s all smiles, or at least attempts at smiles, and is interesting and persuasive about the economy, homeland security and “geek” culture. He defines MoveOn’s mission as an attempt to bring “as much diversity into [the] power structure as possible. That is, ordinary citizens . . . who can provide the countervailing influence against the notion that some kind of inside-the-beltway elite can make all our decisions.”
It would be hard to imagine a better illustration of diversity being introduced into the power structure than Laura Dawn, a 34-year-old singer and sometime Moby collaborator who is now a MoveOn staffer acting as a liaison between the group and the arts community. If you saw Dawn walking down the street in New York’s East Village, in goofy sunglasses, a miniskirt, knee-high boots with platform soles, and a zippered top with an electric-guitar motif, chances are you wouldn’t say to yourself, “Now there’s a woman who’s helping shape this country’s political discourse!” But she is, and it has been the peculiar genius of Boyd and Blades to mine the available talent, and to put their trust, in terms of both MoveOn’s staff and its membership, in the intelligence of relatively ordinary people. “Bush in 30 Seconds” was Dawn’s idea.
Dawn is from Iowa, and she pronounces “Iraq” as EYE-rack. Her father is a butcher. Her parents get most of their news from TV, and they watch a lot of Fox. At one point, she says, her mother was under the impression that the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq rather than Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “The reporting in the last four years has been increasingly disturbing,” she tells me as we sit in a packed East Village caf√©. “It’s so incredibly biased it’s not even remotely journalism in my opinion.”