August 21, 2008 2:03 PM
Mike Littwin on picking Obama's running mate
Mark_Wolf(Q) You wrote in today's column that there's climax and there's anti-climax, there's buildup and there's letdown. You think Barack Obama is stringing out his VP choice too long?
Mike_Littwin(A) No, not really. I just think that his likely picks -- Bayh, Biden or Kaine -- can't possibly match the cable-TV-news buildup.
Jean_Monforton(Q) I do wonder if Mike saw Nancy Pelosi at T.C. yesterday. I was there and was dismayed by the interruptions from very rude people at an event that was NOT a political one, but a book signing by an author.
Mike_Littwin(A) No, I wasn't there. But if Pelosi is selling a book, it's at least a semi-political event. That's why people are buying. But, to your point, I'm still sometimes amazed at some of the rudeness out there. I think it's safe to blame it on talk radio. That's always my default position anyway.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Let's run through usual suspects: Isn't the McCain campaign chomping at the bit to put up commercials with those sound-bites of Joe Biden saying Barack Obama isn't ready to be president?
Mike_Littwin(A) Oh, sure. But the advantage of picking Biden is that he relishes the attack-dog-with-a-smile role. I assume a counter-attack is already in the works.
Mark_Wolf(Q) I'm not convinced Evan Bayh could swing Indiana for Obama. In the primary he had to go up with a flurry of last minute TV ads to barely help Hillary Clinton carry the state.
Mike_Littwin(A) I don't think endorsements matter much. In Indiana, the Obama-Clinton dynamic wasn't going to be affected much by undynamic Evan Bayh. But being on the ticket is another matter. That's Obama making some kind of statement about Indiana and its importance. We'll assume they've done polling on this, if only because they do polling on everything, including the brand of shoes you wear (although John McCain may have missed that memo). If Bayh doesn't help in Indiana, he doesn't get the job. This is Obama's one-state strategy, similar to what McCain would be doing by picking Pawlenty from Minnesota.
John_II(Q) Many on the right believe Obama is a socialist? Do you believe he is?
Mike_Littwin(A) People who think Obama is a socialist need to do some extra-credit homework. Obama is a liberal. He's not a socialist.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Tim Kaine might be the best stump advocate for Obama in the bunch but what else does he bring to the party?
Mike_Littwin(A) There are two reasons why Obama would pick Kaine. The first is they get along. Kaine was an early supporter and they could easily run as a real team. The other reason is that he might help carry Virginia, which could be the ultimate swing state this season. The reason not to is that people I know in Virginia don't think he'd have much impact on helping to carry the state. And that he's even less experienced than Obama. I'd be surprised if he picks Kaine.
John_II(Q) You don't think liberalism and socialism overlap?
Mike_Littwin(A) On the spectrum of left to right, socialism is well to the left of liberal. If you look at the Western democracy models, including the European democracies, American Democrats are basically center-left. If people don't like liberals, that's fine. To call them socialists is just to confuse the issue.
videobarbs(Q) You don't think HIllary will trigger a coup with superdelegates?
Mike_Littwin(A) That's the talk-radio dream scenario. In real life, there's no chance of that happening. It would be fun to watch her try, though.
hoffa(Q) Would you say we have socialist aspects of our economy?
Mike_Littwin(A) Here's dictionary.com's definition of socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. I don't think that's what we have.
videobarbs(Q) Isn't Evan Bayh even more bland than his father? What are his chances for Veep
Mike_Littwin(A) He's definitely more bland than his father. He's as bland a politician as you can find. As I wrote before, the only reasons to pick him are that he's a safe pick and that he could bring Indiana with him. If he can't carry Indiana, in the one-state veep strategy, there's no reason to go with him.
John_II(Q) Obama taught Constitutional law. How can he reconcile our Constitution's restrictions on the federal government with his desire for universal health care? Will he call for a health care amendment to our Constitution?
Mike_Littwin(A) I'm not an expert on Constitutional law, but we have, for example, Medicare. I'm not sure how, constitutionally, universal health care would differ from universal health care for seniors.
mdwindenver(Q) Mike, has Montana governor Brian Schweitzer been considered as a potential VP? He seems like he has a lot to contribute to the Obama campaign. He is a popular western governor with personal business experience in the Arab world as an agricultural consultant, and even speaks some Arabic.
Mike_Littwin(A) I think he'd be a really interesting pick. He's an interesting guy. But my guess is that he's got that experience deficit that the Obama campaign probably can't afford.
KW(Q) What's your opinion on why Obama won't schedule an interview with Fox News? Hillary and Edwards have both been interviewed and neither had any problems with the way the interview was handled.
Mike_Littwin(A) I thought Obama did an interview with FoxNews. Am I wrong on that?
Mark_Wolf(P) Obama has been interviewed on Fox News Sunday by Chris Wallace, appeared on Hannity and Colmes and by Major Garrett before the Super Bowl.
videobarbs(Q) Mike you've been on the stump since Feb. 2007 - are you tired and ready for this to wrap up?
Mike_Littwin(A) Actually, it's been a lot of fun. It's a rare year when there are competitive campaigns in both parties. The Democratic primary, before it turned into a slog at the end, was fascinating. This should be an interesting two-month campaign season. I'm up for the debates. This is the stuff I like to do -- and if I get tired, I've got no one to blame but myself (and John Temple, of course, for giving me the company credit card).
John_II(Q) Obama said he wanted to implement a windfall tax on oil companies and hand the money over to citizens in the form of a $1000 check. Does that remind you of Hugo Chavez?
Mike_Littwin(A) Does the McCain tax rebate remind you of Hugo Chavez? Obama wants to institute a middle-class tax cut. He has to pay for it somehow. Taxing the guys making untold billions is one way to do that.
John_II(Q) Do you have to be an expert on Constitutional law to know that universal health care is not defined there?
Mike_Littwin(A) So, why is Medicare constitutional?
mdwindenver(Q) Speaking of the debates, given all the press about how important the western states are going to be in this election, isn't it a little strange that none of the debates will take place in any western states?
Mike_Littwin(A) That's a good point. But, as it happens, none of the presidential debates will be held in swing states. The closest thing to it is the vice-presidential debate in St. Louis.
hoffa(Q) Does Obama hate private enterprise?....only kidding. Has Obama indicated that he would defer to international authority when making important international secuity decisions? Also, is there reason to suspect a real shift in emphasis to Domestic issues with Obama as President (or is that just election rhetoric)? Is their a VP candidate thought to be particularly strong on domestic reform issues?
Mike_Littwin(A) I think if Obama is elected and there is a Democratic Congress that there would be a shift to Democratic domestic issues anyway, particularly health care. I guess the vice-presidential candidate strongest there would be - get ready -- Hillary Clinton. I'm assuing that with either candidate you'd see -- despite the drilling rhetoric from McCain - an entirely different way of attacking energy problems. The thing about domestic issues is that international issues often get in the way without warning.
KW(Q) If Medicare was to be considered putting the proverbial toe over the constitutional line, how could we then use that as a justification for now wanting to put both feet over the line in the form of a mandatory participation health care system?
Mike_Littwin(A) I'm not accepting your thesis, that it's unconstitutional. But, as I said, I'm not a constitutional expert. My daughter happens to be a law professor. I'll check in with her next time we talk.
videobarbs(Q) Whoever's elected - will they be able to create a national resolve similar to going to the moon to convert economically to alternative fuel or is it just wishful thinking on the part of the citizenry?
Mike_Littwin(A) I actually think we're pretty close to that. Once it starts to make sense economically -- and this has been Bill Clinton's big argument, that this move would jump-start many different economic sectors -- and since it already makes sense scientifically and geopolitically, I think this may be the right time for the nation to get serious.
M.E._Sprengelmeyer(Q) Is Jim Webb really off the table for Obama? Why? Just because he says so? Or because it's unlikely Democrats will run two Senators again like they did in 2004?
Mike_Littwin(A) Is this THE M.E. Sprengelmeyer. What a thrill. You've seen Webb. You've probably met him. Let me ask you a question, if Jim Webb told you no, you think you'd argue?
M.E._Sprengelmeyer(P) He knows all about stop loss orders. He'd understand.
mdwindenver(C) I don't consider myself an expert in anything, really, but I do know that Medicare arises through the Social Security Act (of 1964?) It seems like if there were ever any question of constitutionality, that would have been challenged and resolved in the courts a long time ago.
John_II(Q) Is Medicare defined in the Constitution? Do you have to be an expert to know that nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government authorized to provide health care, even to senior citizens? Have you read the Constitution?
Mike_Littwin(A) I've read the Constitution. I think there are probably other questions out there.
KW(Q) My point was being that just because we rationalized one mandatory system, we should not be trying to use that mistake as justification to continue with additional mandatory systems. The Constitution clealy states that powers not addressed within it would be left to the individual states to decide. And to date, this section has been greatly ignored by the federal government.
Mike_Littwin(A) I'm pretty sure that the Supreme Court doesn't agree with you.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Bill Richardson seems to have dropped off the front line VP radar. What's up with his chances?
Mike_Littwin(A) Bill Richardson is a fun guy to be around. He's a little too much fun to be a veep, however.
Mark_Wolf(Q) You write this morning that the one VP pick that could blow the roof off would be Hillary Clinton. Think there's a chance he'll pick her?
Mike_Littwin(A) I think there's an outside chance. It depends how worried the Obama campaign is right now. My guess is, though, that we're talking less than 1 percent.
John_II(Q) FDR's programs were being shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. So, FDR threatened to "pack the court". The Supreme Court then suddenly changed its vote to side with FDR. Hence, "the switch in time that saved nine" Do you think Obama is the most leftwing presidential candidate since FDR?
Mike_Littwin(A) I think Obama is a mainstream liberal Democrat - and that FDR is probably one of the five greatest presidents we've had.
hoffa(Q) I think that much of the population is mentally anticipating some major reforms if Obama becomes President. Do you think that these expectations are realistic? Or will Obama find himself surrounded by red tape and obstacles that make it impossible to insite real change? Are Obama supporters setting themselves up for dissapointment?
Mike_Littwin(A) If you trust too much in any politician, you're likely to be disappointed. But that's what's interesting about Obama. I think he has a chance to be a game-changer, which differentiates him from most candidates. How he'd be as a president, or how McCain would be as a president, no one can really tell. If you look back at previous campaigns, many of the issues that seem important at the time fade by the time the next campaign begins.
John_II(Q) FDR put Japanese-Americans in "camps" simply because they were Japanese-Americans. Do you think he deserves your accolades?
Mike_Littwin(A) I think that was a terrible thing to have done. Yes, I still think he was a great president.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Sure don't hear much about Chuck Hagel these days?
Mike_Littwin(A) You don't. I think that was a head fake.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Or of Sam Nunn.
Mike_Littwin(A) Well, remember that the Obama people are famously tight-lipped. Nunn could still be a candidate.
notyouravg(Q) here's a silly thought, with all the talk about change and what not. how about an older respected proven ex-leader to serve as officially VP but in fact would be more of a political - spiritual - run it by me first and last guy. then divide the true duties of VP between several top elected and non elected officials. maybe a Jimmy Carter could fill this role?
Mike_Littwin(A) And the campaign slogan is: and if you really want an old guy . . .
notyouravg(C) well maybe "older guy" was a poor choice of words. I'm sure there are some 60ish folks out there that could fit this role.
mdwindenver(Q) Mike, that is one of the things that intrigues me about an Obama presidency, it seems like there are a fair amount of talented and interesting Dems to fill key positions. Richardson is certainly one of them. Again I like Brian Schweitzer, Federico Pena has been there before. Up until recently I would have included John Edwards. It seems like there could be a high level position for Hillary Clinton, hopefully in exchange for keeping her OFF the ticket as VP. Do you have any speculation as to who might fill some key positions in an Obama presidency?
Mike_Littwin(A) Here's an intriguing possibility: Obama will definitely appoint a few Hispanics to high-level positions. My guess is that Pena doesn't want to go back to Washington, even if he were offered. What about Ken Salazar?
Mark_Wolf(P) Mike has several questions in his queue, including KW's and John_II's. He's going to take those and then we're going to call off the jam (that's for all you who remember Roller Derby).
KW(Q) Mark, does remembering roller derby make me old?
Mark_Wolf(A) I prefer to think of it as culturally aware.
John_II(Q) Can you name an economic plan or proposal from Obama that does not increase the size and control of the federal government?
Mike_Littwin(A) Can you name an economic plan or proposal from McCain that does not increase the size and control of the federal government?
KW(Q) Depends who is on the Supreme Court Mike. We've recently seen the DC handgun ban reversed. Even that was nearly a split decision. Which brings us back to the great possibility that the Supremes may be wrong on several past decisions. Would you not agree?
Mike_Littwin(A) I would definitely agree that the Supremes have been wrong on many decisions. But I think it's a matter of settled law that the government can be involved in health care.
John_II(Q) If you are not up to speed on our Constitution, should you be allowed to vote?
Mike_Littwin(A) If you read the Constitution, you'd know that there is no such restriction on the right to vote.
videobarbs(Q) Thanks for the forum. I'll come again. Good luck and have fun at t the Convention Mike! Thanks Mark for moderating.
Mike_Littwin(A) Thanks for all the questions. It's been fun.
John_II(C) Thanks for your glib answers Mike