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Jennifer Granholm Knows How to Rally the Base

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(Photo by Victoria Will)

As the Democratic National Convention wrapped up in September, an unlikely name was on the tip of everyone's tongues -- Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan Governor who delivered a boisterous address, shaking up a typically sleepy afternoon speaking slot. Huffington spoke to Granholm, who is now host of Current TV's War Room with Jennifer Granholm, about that fiery speech, as well as what it's like to pretend to be Sarah Palin and what she thinks will happen after the election.
- Mollie Reilly

Your speech at the DNC was certainly one of the most memorable at the conventions. Did you know going into it that you'd be that fired up?

No! In fact, what's so funny about it is that I've spoken at conventions before. I get one of the afternoon time slots, and you go up there and everybody's on the floor milling about and talking, and the people in the back tell you don't worry, don't take it personally, just remember that you're delivering your remarks to the people back home. Just look at the cameras and keep going. So in this case, what I assumed would happen was that I'd get up, nobody'd be paying attention, and I knew there was a huge time crunch ... Well, when I got out and the crowd started to react, I was totally surprised by that, I thought "OH, this is great!"

During your speech, you came down pretty hard on Mitt Romney and his time at Bain Capital, stressing that "too often he made [his wealth] at the expense of middle-class Americans." How important do you think these issues are to voters?

It just shows that they are dividing the country [against those] who might take advantage of something that perhaps they paid into, like Medicare or Social Security, because of the moment that they're in in life, and that's okay. And to say that they're victims or that they're moochers is just so utterly offensive.

You played Sarah Palin during Joe Biden's debate prep back in 2008. What is that process like?

We on the Biden side were in the hotel room in Delaware, and the stage was built to be an exact replica of the stage and the podium that were going to be at the actual debate. The room was equipped with computers and all of that for people to be able to do their research, background checks, pull up what was happening — not just during the debate prep, but for what policy positions that [Biden] could go after Sarah Palin and John McCain on, and to make sure that he was on the same page as the president... My role was to try to get under his skin, to try to see if I could knock him off balance, presenting a variety of scenarios where he might trip up during the real debate.

Looking beyond the election, the so-called "fiscal cliff" is looming right around the corner. What path do you see forward?

One way or another, this will be fixed. The container will explode otherwise. I don't think there is any way we won't get beyond it. It may mean that it goes beyond January 1, and that way Republicans can save face in allowing some tax cuts to expire and lowering taxes on the ones that they don't want to expire, but I think ultimately the fiscal cliff is too disastrous for the country. Sometimes a crisis precipitates action, and that crisis of the cliff will force action. The question is, when? I think they have about six weeks before calamity hits after January 1, but once that hits, I think there is no doubt, I don't think there's anybody who's looking at this that thinks they will allow all the tax cuts of the expire and all of the cuts to take take effect. It just will not happen.

You've frequently discussed Republican obstructionism on your show. If Obama is reelected and congressional majorities stay as is, what's next?

The first priority is the same priority they're talking about. It's how to create jobs in America. What are their strategies to do that in a way that works, and then getting Congress on board with it. I think the question will be how much rant time, if the president is reelected and there's a divided House and Senate? How much time does he have before election season kicks in again that he can work with some members to be able to get some reasonable compromise through on some key initiatives? That's going to be the biggest issue if there's still a divided House and Senate. How does he move the ball when the obstructionists have signed pledges not to cooperate, essentially?

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