Welcome to my regular update of my food for thought session where I prepare and share a meal with the great and the good in political circles garnished with some thought provoking topical discussion. Recently I indulged in my two great passions; food and great conversation, I shared a meal at DC eatery OYA with John Podesta a veteran democratic political strategist, who has been in the camps of many democratic presidential hopefuls; McCarthy, McGovern, Dukakis and of course President Bill Clinton. Despite his top level political connections John Podesta is essentially a political street fighter from Chicago proud of his Blue collar credentials. A seasoned political bruiser who doesn't mince his words-just who President Clinton needed in his corner during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment trial.
In spite of his extensive career in the Democratic party working alongside some of the party's iconic figures such as Ted Kennedy, John Podesta is not one for looking back when the greatest challenges for the Democrats lay ahead. With the health care debate still raging and the bill still seriously unpopular with almost half of the American public and midterms looming, this is the greatest challenge to the Democrats especially as the President is so closely associated with this bill let alone the fact that the late Ted Kennedy dedicated his political life to achieving a health care system which catered for poorer Americans. However It wasn't only politics on the menu, John and I still found time for a little discussion of Tiger Woods on the side. Far from the political bruiser I found John to be a real smooth talker worthy of comparison to his former boss President Clinton a real charmer, luckily for me his evil twin "Skippy" was no where in sight. Click below to watch my interview with John Podesta.
From a Democratic veteran campaigner to rising Republican star, my next stop was LA cool hangout The Palihouse Hotel for a cook and chat date with Damon Dunn a new kid on the Republican block. Damon lived his early years in a trailer but went on to earn a Scholarship to Stanford, play in the NFL and set up his own real estate company. And if all that wasn't enough for the Republican hierarchy to realize they have a hidden gem in their midst, they could always defer to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who has been and continues to be a mentor to Damon.
To add a little spice to this dinner date I invited Democratic foreign affairs expert and co-author of "The Next American Century" Nina Hachigian for a bit of a debate and to turn up the heat in the kitchen. We discussed Hollywood marriages and the "curse" of being a successful female. Despite being from opposite sided of the political spectrum they were both agreed that the success of failure of relationships depended more on the character of the involved individuals than external pressures. However the entente ended when the discussion turned to the health bill. Coming from Britain where health care is free to all at the point of delivery, I am still struggling to understand how a bill to help poorer Americans get the health treatment they need is controversial. We discussed the Massachusetts election result and it's impact on the Health care bill.
Despite the Democrats health care victory, this debate still highlights the difference in the unity within the two parties. The Republicans are unified in their opposition to this bill whereas the Democrats have failed to show the same unity with 34 Democrats voting against the bill. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the conversation and of course the company and our discussion was not all high politics. However as we laughed and debated, I couldn't help thinking that the 32 million uninsured Americans would find it hard to stomach that they could be denied health care by those who will never have to go without it themselves.
Click below to watch our lively debate.
Back in the UK it's election time and the political debate is heating up as the viewing public are treated to Prime Ministerial debates. Nick Clegg the leader of the Liberal Democrats does well in the debate and turns the usual 2 party race in to a 3 way. The debate has now moved from how many seats the Labour party would loose or whether the fresh faced Conservative party leader David Cameron has done enough to win to what would happen if no one party wins a majority and who Nick Clegg would support to form a government. But of course behind all this is the elephant in the room that is the deficit which will mean severe cuts in public spending and an increase in taxes which no party leader wants to talk about during an election.