Following is a 5 minute exchange I had with one of the rising stars in National Politics, Senator Barack Obama. The transcript is virtually verbatim, however I did take some liberties in transfering our words from an impromptu dialogue to this post.
Upon the arrival of the Senator, we made ourselves at home in a small teachers' lounge or workroom. There was a small round table, with an assortment of snacks, where I set up my laptop and notes. Seated at the table were Sen. Obama, Sen Mark Dayton, and myself. Sen. Dayton was not participating in the interview, but was taking advantage of the time to go over his prepared remarks leading up to the rally. Nate Tamarin, Political Director for the 'hopefund', was also in the room.
We only took a few moments to get set up and comfortable. Sen Obama cozied up to the table, grabbed a handful of snacks, popped a couple in his mouth and said "Whataya got for me" or something to that effect.
Sen. Obama in Bold
Please to meet you Sen. Obama. I’m very honored to have this opportunity.
I’ve been doing a little research. I read your comments in Connecticut talking about 'it's time for the Democratic Party to get over it’s identity crisis' and to not let anyone tell them that they don’t know what they stand for. But then I also read your comments when you visited with the Blogger in Kansas where you talked about being ‘flexible’. So how can the Democrats be flexible at a time when the Left is trying to shake this Right Wing ‘meme’ that they don’t have a defined plan
I think we have to be absolutely firm on our values and the ends we are trying to achieve. We have to have some flexibility in thinking of new ways about how to achieve those ultimate goals. So I’ll take an example. I think that we have to, as a party, be in favor of Universal Health Care. The idea that we have 45 million uninsured or that people can be bankrupt if they get sick is unacceptable. Now, does it have to be a single payor plan, should we look at what they are doing in Massachusetts under a Republican Governor and a Democratic Legislature to create a system of mandatory insurance. We should be flexible in terms of seeing what is the best way to achieve the goal. But never give up on the goal.
Right, you mentioned that to Josh.
Especially when we are in a contested race here, both Gubernatorially and in the Senate, with the Republicans kind of coasting with their anointed candidacies, how do we make sure we have a healthy debate within the party without providing ammunition to the opposition during this process?
You know, by talking about issues. I think it is entirely legitimate for Democrats to have a debate about the best way to achieve universal health care, what is the best way to bring our troops back home from Iraq, what is the right balance between security and civil liberties. Those are all, I think, legitimate topics to debate. I would hope that in a Democratic primary we make sure that we always assume good faith on the part of our opponents.
I think that if people have healthy debate but at the end of the day each party is acknowledging that the other person is doing this for the right reasons.
Right, I’ve talked to both Dr. Bell and County Attorney Klobuchar and my comments to both of them was that I honor and respect their candidacies, I’ve decided to support Amy, but ‘Keep your eye on the prize’.
Yes, exactly! And from what I have heard Dr. Bell is a good guy!
I understand you went to Law School, Harvard, with RNC Chair Kevin Melhman
And you continue to have a relationship with him. Now I have a gathering about once a month where I bring bloggers from all across the political spectrum over to my garage and we have some beverages . . .
Yes it is. Because what I find is that it sometimes can soften the rhetoric and keep our eye more focused on issues and things like that. Do you think your more active involvement on the National party scene may improve the level of discourse between the two parties.
You know, one of my dear friends and political mentors was a guy named Paul Simon.
I’m aware of him
He was one of these guys who had what would be considered a very liberal voting record. Yet he always did well in conservative areas. Nobody could ever figure out why accept for the fact that he had mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. I think that’s one thing that American politics generally would benefit from is being able to disagree, sometimes forcefully, without name calling and without viciousness.
Right, you had a little harsh criticism from Sen McCain about a month or so ago. How would you meet the challenges you face now as you risk your independent perception and are more public traveling at various Democratic events throughout the country.
Well, you know, look, I’m a Democrat and I’m proud of being a Democrat. And I’m proud of what the Democratic Party Stands for. You’ll notice that most of the time when I’m talking I’m talking affirmatively about what the Democrats stand for. And if I’m critical of the Bush Administration, for example, it’s going to be based on their philosophy. I'm not going to call them evil, or bad intentioned, but I am going to say that they have made a lot of big mistakes in terms of running the country.
I certainly agree. As we finish up, how do you see your role in the 2006 elections cycle evolve as we get closer to November.
I just want to help elect as many Democratic Senators as I can, and when I got a little spare time I’ll try to help some House Members as well.
Incredible. I am so honored to have this opportunity.
Great to See ya.
Thanks . . . Flash, I’m going to look you up!
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A Stroke of Luck