Politico, Yahoo! News, and the Denver Post are holding a series of conversations every morning of the convention at the Denver Athletic Club downtown. Today, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, former Senator Tom Daschle, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss spoke with Politico’s John Harris and the Denver Post’s Susan Greene. The discussion was on, “Obama and the Impossible Job; what are the personal qualities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents – and does this nominee have them?” Here are some thoughts and moments from the discussion:
– According to Michael Beschloss, the “personal quallities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents” is that they are abl to stand by their beliefs even if it means killing their political career, and the ability to get stuff through Congress. I agree – although I only think Obama posesses one of those traits. Sure, he has the ability to stand up for what he believes in (when asked for examples, Daschle mentioned his early stance against the Iraq war and opposition to the gas tax holiday), but as a Senator who only has five years in Washington, it would be tough for him to pass legislation, even with a Democratic Congress. Beschloss scored the laugh of the day when he said that although Obama lacks that ability, Congressional experience is “something you can hire,” as he motioned toward Senator Daschle.
– Daschle only attended part of the conversation, but did offer some thoughts. On Obama’s potential, Daschle said he “represents a real opportunity” to bring people into the process the way Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy did decades ago. DIscussing Bill Clinton’s speech tonight (for which Savidge for America will be in the Pepsi Center), when asked if Clinton could “blow it” tonight, he answered with a precise “No.” After a pause and a laugh, he went on to say that, “When the Clintons rise to occasion, they do it in spades.” Daschle also predicted that Joe Biden would “knock everyone’s socks off tonight.”
– One of the morning’s most interesting ideas came from Rahm Emanuel, who talked about how presidents should choose their Vice-Presidents. Imagine you are in the Oval Office, sitting at the president’s desk, Emanuel says. When you look up, who are the three people you would want to see there advising you? Write down those three names, and from there pick your running mate.
– Later, Politico’s moderators asked if this would be a “post-racial” election, in which the ethnicity of a candidate wouldn’t matter. While Beschloss worked around the question, saying that Barack Obama wouldn’t loose votes for his race, Emanuel shared my opinion: in a nation with a history like ours (and a present like ours), post-racial politics are impossible. Sure, it’s possible to have a candidate for whom race won’t cost them votes, but it is unrealistic to think that one day, their race will not enter the conversation.
I really enjoyed today’s Politico discussion, and they’re having another one tomorrow with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (who gave a great speech last night that really got the delegates amped up), and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. They’re free to attend, and are held at the Denver Athletic Club across the street from the Colorado Convention Center – if you’re here, I reccomend you check it out.