7 Days: Daschle on Obama and McCain, with Huffington, Reagan & Green

11/18/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We now see McCain's split-level strategy for the remaining two weeks -- while he stays patriotic and funny, his campaign quietly floods the country with slanderous robo-calls and ads equating Obama and Ayers/ACORN. The public Maverick vs. the private McCarthy.

Interview with Sen. Tom Daschle, October 17, 2008

GREEN: You know him well from when you both served together in the Senate. What was going through McCain's head during and since the debate?

DASCHLE: I think he was advised to be aggressive, and I think that came off as anger. You know, one of the great taglines that they told us to use during the post-debate spin period was to say that he's already convinced two-thirds of the American people he's angry, and he spent 90 minutes convincing the final third. And I think he did a good job of that; he convinced a lot of people last night that he's an angry man. And I think that frustration showed increasingly during the debate.

2008-09-20-airamericalogo.jpgGREEN: On this blog three months ago, I wrote that Obama seemed to be our Reagan, a teflon candidate due to his sunny composure. How much is that the reason for his success to date?

Well, I think it is. You know, this is such a dangerous time, a time of great anxiety. People are concerned at levels that we haven't seen in a long time. And I think they'd like to look at their leader and see that calm, that equanimity, and that sense of reassurance that you get from a leader like that. So he's got exactly the demeanor for troubled times. I think just his personal demeanor alone:, the tenor of his remarks, the approach he uses, is calming and reassuring, and that's what the American people are looking for. Contrast that with the hot, angry, frustrated tone you see from John McCain, and it's no wonder that Barack Obama's winning by increasing margins.

GREEN: McCain is mocking Obama for "measuring the drapes". How do you avoid overconfidence in the campaign -- is it someone's job to go around saying, "Remember Tom Dewey"?

DASCHLE: Well, I have been all over the country...and I haven't seen one scintilla of evidence that somebody's taking this for granted. We've got about 3,000 staff now on campaign, and with hundreds of offices across the country working 24/7. These younger people are absolutely burning it at both ends, doing everything possible to ensure that we are going to be successful.

GREEN: Can you tell us anything about the inevitable transition team that's been assembled anticipating the possibility that you win? For example, is Joe the Plumber now on that panel?

DASCHLE: (Laughs) Well, I think Joe the Plumber probably has an honorary position in several of these task forces by now, especially given his prominence in the last debate. My guess is that it's going to be a lot of Joe the Plumbers who are going to be helping us as we try to plumb through what we've got to do in the next several weeks.

GREEN: Ok, what will be the first issues on the desk of the new president January 21, whoever wins?

DASCHLE: Well, I would say without a question - and I can't imagine anyone would dispute this - that the economy is going to be front and center. And there are so many different aspects of the economy. I think you could argue that how we deal with the energy situation is economic in its orientation, and how we deal with health care is economic. As you know, he's going to have to present his alternative to the Bush budget almost immediately, so that will be up there very high. The S-CHIP program, the children's health insurance program, expires, so he's going to have to deal with that almost immediately. He has a decision that he has to make in regard to any statements on climate change; that [Copenhagen] conference is in December, and clearly people all over the world are going to want to know what the next President would say about climate. So there's just an array of big decisions that are going to have to be made almost from the very beginning.

GREEN: Since Obama is doing well in part because of an internet strategy that's produced, for example, 10 million email addresses, how might he govern differently in this new text-message, YouTube, internetted world?

DASCHLE: Oh, I don't think there's any question. What you see in the campaign is what you'd see with governance. There's just a transformation in the way we've run this campaign. From the role that blogs have played - the Huffington Post is a good example - to the role that we've seen with fundraising, the way we communicate, the impact of YouTube. I mean, just across the board. And I've actually had conversations with experts in technology who say you could really transform governance with technological applications that this administration hasn't even begun to think about. So this will be the first "technology administration," in my view, the first one who fully appreciates the magnitude of change that could be brought about as a result of new technology. So you're going to see remarkable things happen: in healthcare, in education, in communication, in government services, in an array of different aspects and facets that I think make this one of the most exciting times to be in government.

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7 DAYS Panel with Huffington, Reagan & Green, October 17, 2008

GREEN: Didn't McCain have an impossible task in the debate of staying on the offensive yet not appearing offensive? How'd he do?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, just to realize how badly he did, you should watch him on David Letterman, where he was the night after, or you should watch him in white tie in New York at the Al Smith Dinner where he showed a completely different aspect of his personality. So it would have been perfectly easy for him to be the John McCain of either of these was like he was a completely different person, and that was something which was a serious tactical error on behalf of his campaign.

GREEN: Ron, can you explain why the McCain campaign is talking so much about ACORN?

ACORN is an organization that focuses on registering minority and poor people. They say they've registered about 1.3 million new voters. Now, they go out and hire people who are also poor to do a lot of this registering. And some of the people, you know, at the end of the day, when they realize that they haven't filled out all the things they need to have filled out, and maybe they're not going to get paid as much as they would like, so they fill out some forms with "Minnie Mouse" and "Mickey Mouse" and things like this, and turn them in. Most of these are caught, of course, right away, and it's important that we know that we're not talking about "vote fraud" or "voter fraud," but vote-registration fraud: it's unlikely that Mickey Mouse is going to show up at a polling place and try and vote. What's happening here on the Republican side is that they're using these mistakes or slight malfeasance in voter registration to make the case, as John McCain put it in this week's debate, that there's this great "assault on democracy" taking place. This sets the table for them, should McCain lose, that the election was a fraud, that the Democrats stole the election. Now, they're not going to win that battle in court, but in the court of public opinion, they hope, they will taint the Obama administration going forward. This is all part of this ongoing battle between vote suppression, which is something that the Republicans practice all of the time, and the notion that the Democrats practice vote fraud, which has been investigated by the Department of Justice and found to be without merit largely.

GREEN: Arianna, you've been warning that this will end up being a national security election, given the wars and given McCain's story. Doesn't that seem unlikely at this point?

HUFFINGTON: Well, that could happen on the day before [Election Day], and it's not really just Iraq, it's the sense of safety at home, and who is going to be able to protect us better. And however they want to play that card, whether it's releasing another [bin Laden] videotape, or playing off of any kind of remark that Obama makes, real or imagined...I think that this is a card that they have not yet played.

GREEN: Do either of you want to talk about the earlier question and answer about the first issues to be defused by the next president?

HUFFINGTON: There are two major issues. One is what he is going to do about Iraq. And that, he has promised again and again, is going to be one of his first acts in office: to have a real timetable. Of course, that will also be the way to save a lot of money! You know, I'm fascinated by the fact that when they talk about spending cuts they don't mention the ultimate spending cut, which is bringing our troops home from Iraq, and not spending the billions of dollars we are spending there every week. And the second thing would be to address, actually, a real stimulus package, which they are considering doing even before the new President is inaugurated, right after the election, because it is so necessary and hasn't yet been done.