Rachel Maddow Live: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

I had the pleasure last night of seeing Rachel Maddow broadcasting her MSNBC show live from the 92nd Street Y in New York. A lot of themes were hit, but one—the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—was particularly striking.

The Appetizers: Nouriel Roubini, Matt Taibbi

As usual, the themes du jour were served up. Nouriel Robini, aka Dr. Doom for his prescient prediction of the recent financial meltdown, was there to comment on prospects for real estate and the economy (bad, and not-so-great, respectively, due to governmental gridlock and political avoidance).

Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone (you know, the ‘Goldman vampire squid’ guy) was there talking about his most recent book, Griftopia. Asked by Maddow how to explain Congress’s gross inefficiency at dealing with substantive issues, he answered, “Congress is very efficient at doing their real job, which is delivering on the wishes of those who fund it.”

The audience of about 800 was strongly pro-Maddow. There were probably 3 Republicans in the room, though that’s just a guess.

The Main Course: Four US Military Personnel

Maddow started by acknowledging her own missed prediction that the Senate would never be the agency for repeal of DADT. She then introduced four distinguished service members, each of whom spoke in ways that can only be described as moving.

To a man (actually, 3 men and one women) they held no resentment toward the military that had destroyed their careers, and at least in one case, nearly his life. Their message was uniformly pro-military and service, looking only prospectively.

High Bandwidth Television—Live and in Person

I hadn’t been to a live-broadcast TV event in some years, and it reminded me of a few core trust principles. The higher the “bandwidth” of one’s experience with another, the greater the impact. (Look for me—I’m with the 100 or so others in the right front section of the auditorium).

Impressions: Rachel Maddow is even more slender than she looks on TV; she wore red sneakers with black jeans. She was completely at ease expressing her complete emotion about the significance of the evening, and the supportiveness of the audience. She’s the most genuine and authentic Rhodes Scholar you’ll meet–totally un-full of herself. I find it hard to imagine that anyone could find her not likable, regardless of one’s politics.

Impressions: when you’re close enough to see the emotions on the faces, hear it in the voices, things are qualitatively different. Powerful. Affective. Effective.

A good thing happened yesterday in the US Senate; human civil rights were advanced. Here were live witnesses testifying, up close and personal, to the human meaning of that action.

They were impressive.