No Labels: The Highlights

  • Inglis, a Republican who was defeated in his primary by a candidate who had received significant Tea Party support, brought a somber note to the proceedings.

    He emphasized the idea that we needed to be able to disagree with someone's point of view without feeling personal hatred for them.

    "The President is a loyal, patriotic American, who loves his country, loves his wife, and loves his kids; I just don't agree with about anything he says," he said very calmly.

    "The ties that bind us as a nation are stronger than the ties that blind us by ideology."

  • Braley, a two term Democratic congressman from Iowa, talked about the need for more social interaction across party lines in Washington.

    "The most important place [in congress] is the house gym, because it's much more difficult to demonize someone is when you actually know them."

    This idea was echoed by a number of guests—including David Gergen and incoming House freshman Joe Manchin—who noted that the divisions in policies have turned into social divisions as well.

  • One of the first speakers, David Brooks, of The New York Times, started out with some jokes about American culture ("Costco is like Walmart on acid," he said. "Who goes there to go shopping for condoms?") before moving on to the meatier segment of his schtick.

    "[Politicians] are pretty good people actually, but they're emotional freaks of some way or another," he said.

    The political commentator, oft considered 'liberals favorite conservative columnist,' explained that there needs to be a cultural change in the way that Washington works.

    "We've reached the point where all human contact in Washington is distorted."

    He suggested that a bipartisan group like No Labels is necessary to aid those politicians who step out of party lines for the greater good.

    "When they do something unorthodox, there's no one there to support them."

  • After serving seven terms as the Democratic congressman in Virginia, Tom Davis resigned, without spectacle or scandal—a move he boasted about on Monday.

    "I retired from congress undefeated and unindicted, so I'm very proud of that," he said.

    He warned, however, that the Citizens United Supreme Court case is a troubling sign of things to come in the area of political finances.

    "The money has moved away from political parties and out to the political extremes. The money hasn't disappeared, it's just moved away from the parties."

  • Political consultant David Gergen is a poster child for bipartisanship, having served in the administrations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

    The journalist and professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard hit the local issues first, saying some positive things about one of the afternoon's speakers, before moving on to national trends.

    "Mayor Bloomberg has mad a lot of progress especially in schools, and in a lot of things, and it has not been a ideological administration," he said.

    "History has been that when these populous movements come up one, of the two parties take them in; look what's happening with the Tea Party, that's what the Republicans are doing with them, trying to take them in," he added later.

  • Sen. Gillibrand spoke for a total of three minutes at the conference, and in the spirit of the event's bipartisan push, she pointed to her work with conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn as a possible way forward.

    "He wants to ban all earmarks and I like federal investments to create jobs, but one thing we agree on is about transparency, that what we need to do when it comes to federal investment—we need transparency, we need accountability, we need to make sure the American people have the information they need to hold members of congress accountable. And that's why we're on a bill to have searchable databases, and we're doing it with John McCain," she said.

  • Incoming West Virginian congressman Joe Manchin accompanied Gergen on the morning panel with "Morning Joe" hosts Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, and Evan Bayh.

    Manchin touted his own bipartisan experience in various levels of state government, where he served as Governor since 2005.

    "If you talk long enough, everyone agrees on something," he said.

    Manchin also made a point of stressing the fiscal responsibility—veering, it seemed, toward the dreaded partisanship.

    "In my little state people don't believe that you can spend yourself to prosperity," he said of the national debt.

  • Former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough echoed Manchin's warnings about risky spending.

    "The only thing that unties both parties right now is that they want something for nothing," he said. "If we don't start saying 'If we want it, we've gotta pay for it,' we're going to become Greece, Ireland, or worse: California."

    He also had some choice words for the media.

    "I'm not saying it's the responsibility of bloggers to be more tactful when they're in their basement eating Cheetos at their mother's house—it's terrible getting their Cheetos stains on their Macbooks. The responsibility lies with politicians knowing what to filter out."

  • After only one term in his father's old Senate seat in Indiana, Bayh announced he would not run for reelection this year.

    As many of the event's speakers were waxing longingly for the political days of yore, Bayh was quick to warn against romanticizing the past—before admitting maybe the present was a tad worse.

    "I think we search in vain for a golden era of comity in American politics, it was always a bit rough and tumble, but no doubt it is worse today."

  • Castle was a solid pick for the afternoon panel, titled "Electoral Reform in America." He was accompanied by Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Charlie Crist, California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Ellen Freidin, a Florida-based advocate of electoral reform.

    Castle, the Republican congressman from Delaware since 1993, was ousted from office in this year's primary by Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell.

    "Sometimes I cry when I revisit the issue, so I've gotta be careful," he said of the midterms.

    As a result, Castle has become a new supporter of open primaries, an issue discussed on the panel.

    "They took me out with a very low turnout of Republicans."

  • A major advocate of electoral reform, Mayor Bloomberg was quick to remind the audience of his earlier push for change, which garnered little to no support. In 2003, he spearheaded a movement for nonpartisan elections in New York, but was massively defeated.

    "Given the results, it was hard to find anybody in favor but me," he said.

    One of the problems facing reform was the lack of popular support—and a failure to communicate the larger implications.

    "It's not clear that the average person feels themselves disenfranchised or wants a lot of the things we are advocating."

    Amid much speculation—which he has denied several times—that he will run for president in 2012 as a third party candidate, Bloomberg said that the math would not add up.

    "In the end when you have an independent candidate, it is the two major parties that get most of the votes."

  • Deeming himself a suitable voice for bipartisanship, having been both a Republican and now an Independent, the Floridian governor said that politicians need to reprioritize, focusing more on their constituents than their own campaign coffers.  

    "[Politicians have to] talk about the country before the party, you talk about the people before the party bosses."

  • Mayor Cory Booker, sans cape and tights

    The popular Newark mayor was one of the event's final speakers, and arguably the most energetic. Booker briskly walked around the stage, emphatically energizing the crowd, who had been listening to speeches for nearly six hours at that point.

    Coming on shortly after Mayor Bloomberg, Booker didn't miss an opportunity to score a few laughs at his friend's expense.

    "Mayor Bloomberg is one of my favorite mayors," he said. "The best piece of advice Mayor Bloomberg gave me was 'Before you become a mayor, become a billionaire.'"

    Booker then talked about how the country has to come together in order to get back to it's core identity.

    "This country now is falling behind on so many measures. That is not the American way. We are a country where impossible ideals are made real."

Politicker.com is now part of Observer.com. We're bringing you more political news, as well as culture, style, real estate and opinion.

Don't miss the latest from City Hall, Albany and Washington. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow New York Observer on Twitter and Facebook.