[Editor's note: This is the first post from Alan Smith, a New York-based political junkie and media consultant. Alan will filing reports from this week's Clinton Global Initiative that coincides with the opening of the UN General Assembly. When not fighting the good fight, Alan writes at Living the American Green. Alan is also live-tweeting from CGI as @Americangreen. -TH]
Let it never be said that Bill Clinton doesn’t tackle the big ideas head on. The ideas here at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative are all so big that they are straining against the (admittedly luxurious) confines of the Sheraton Hotel.
Basically, this entire event feels like a giant version of Match.com for people with money to meet people with ideas. It’s exciting, and all week we are going to be hearing about the promises that everyone is making for the upcoming year. But the press coverage of the event is a little wonky: focused on the names, but not so much on the ideas.
At least on day one, this is Clinton’s show: he’s his usual truth telling self, digging at congress for being unable to figure out healthcare even though Chile can figure it out, and pointing out that Wal-Mart’s recent success proves you can reduce emissions and still make Money.
Clinton mentioned at one point that Australia is the place hit worst by the actual realized effects of Global Warming to date, something that I hadn’t heard before. This, in part, is why I feel like the real environmental take away from the opening ceremonies (which can be forgiven for being light on content) was made by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In talking about Australia’s work to combat Global Warming, he said that there are two lines of attack that people take around the globe:
1) That the science is wrong.
2) That focus on reducing C02 emissions it will destroy the economy.
Both of these complaints – regardless of where they crop up, seem fundamentally wrong. Wal-Mart’s CEO was here to tell us that profits have been going great guns as they moved toward ever more C02 conscious plans. Bill Clinton pointed out that 100,000 electric cars are due to be on the roads in Israel before the same number get launched here in the U.S. “Maybe someone can convince me that is going to be a crushing blow to their economy,” Clinton said “but I don’t think so…”
Which leaves point two: science. To quote the man of the hour, WJC: “If we do it right, we will still have created a new economy, made growth more democratic, created new jobs, and pulled us out of a financial tail spin. And that’s even IF THE SCIENCE IS WRONG! (which isn’t a rabbit hole to go down right now)
But the room (and the extra 500 journalists) has basically been buzzing in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival, to give the keynote speech. It’s been a busy day for Obama, from stopping by the U.N. to talk about confronting the Global Environmental Crisis, to calling for a peace accord in the middle east, to hitting up the opening Plenary Session here at the Clinton Global Initiative to inspire a four day period of big crazy ideas. So, I guess he can be forgiven for mailing the speech in a little: It was all about hope, change, and platitudes on civil service, which was jarring coming off the hard talk about commitments to real concrete changes.
Coming back at you all week with new commitments, new ideas, and new hard and fast projects that will save the world…