08/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama on Meet the Press : It's Still About Race and Gender

Under grilling this morning by Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press today, Barack Obama refused to play coy on any potential pick for the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket, offering only this clue: he wants someone with whom he can govern, he said, and someone who brings to the table strengths he may not have. While the CW types see in that caveat names like Biden and Bayh, Obama's main criterion leaves plenty of wiggle room.

Word comes today that the Obama campaign is floating the name of Ann Veneman, the Bush administration's *first* [update] agriculture secretary, a rather baffling idea, especially if you read Rick Perlstein's take-down at the Campaign for America's Future site. Is this some kind of ploy to engage female swing voters a bit earlier in the process than they would ordinarily tune in?

So, what about Hillary Clinton? Brokaw brought up an account by Clinton fundraiser Jill Iscol of a conversation she had with Barack Obama, in which Iscol said Obama's problem with Hillary was her husband. Pressed by Brokaw, Obama said he would welcome having Bill Clinton out on the stump for him, every day, as the interviewer phrased it, Obama noted how the former prez campaigned to great effect in "small, rural towns" across the country while Sen. Clinton worked the big towns "as hard as she did." In other words, would love, love to have Bill out of sight organizing the "hardworking white people" while the candidate continues to soak up the spotlight. A great strategy, actually, but I'm not so sure how well it will be received in Clintonia.

Answering another question, Obama seemed to reveal an evolving strategy for how do deal with the very issue that makes this presidential election so historic -- that of Obama's race. Confronted by very lopsided poll numbers favoring McCain in measuring the public's perception of the two presidential contenders as commander-in-chief, Obama gave an answer that surprised me: "I don't look like previous commanders-in-chief," he said.

I can't tell you how many times I've found myself shouting at the television when pundits cluelessly wonder aloud why, in light of all of McCain's gaffes, self-contradictions, Keating 5 baggage, health problems and notorious temper, Obama isn't fairing better in polls against McCain.

"Because he's black," I yell.



Here's how the L.A. Times's Peter Nicholas reported on July 12 the news of Iscol's conversation with Obama:

Obama replied that [Hillary Clinton] is on his list, Iscol recounted, and that it would be a mistake not to have her on such a list. But he also explained that he was thinking through a potential "complication" -- Bill Clinton.

"He said once you're a president, even if you're a former president, you're always a president," Iscol said.

Last week, HuffPost's own Seth Colter Walls reported that Iscol would object to any woman other than Hillary Clinton being named to the ticket. Not exactly what I'd call feminism.