Last night at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Barack Obama took a question on what he's looking for in a running mate. "I would like somebody who knows about a bunch of stuff that I'm not as expert on," he said, and then he was off and running. "I think a lot of people assume that might be some sort of military thing to make me look more Commander-in-Chief-like. Ironically, this is an area--foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain."
"It's ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags 'I've met leaders from eighty countries'--I know what those trips are like! I've been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There's a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then--you go."
"You do that in eighty countries--you don't know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa--knowing the leaders is not important--what I know is the people. . . ."
"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college--I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . ."
"Nobody is entirely prepared for being Commander-in-Chief. The question is when the 3 AM phone call comes do you have somebody who has the judgment, the temperament to ask the right questions, to weigh the costs and benefits of military action, who insists on good intelligence, who is not going to be swayed by the short-term politics. By most criteria, I've passed those tests and my two opponents have not."
There are a number of interesting things about Senator Obama's remarks. If Senators Clinton and McCain have not passed "those tests," likely they will be surprised to hear it. Secondly, even though I've researched and written on Hillary Clinton's trips abroad and consequently been critical of her claims, my estimation of her foreign travels is that they were sometimes quite a bit more than a dance, a briefing and a tour. What Barack Obama's remarks last night in San Francisco reveal, however, is his self-confidence--to the point of cockiness--right now. This is exactly the same demeanor on display last week in Pennsylvania.
So Bill Richardson and Joe Biden--to name two with foreign policy experience--should put aside any transient veep thoughts.
Another area--and this one is policy--in which Obama is not an expert is energy. Case in point is his ode to ethanol, which he delivered last week on his Pennsylvania bus tour at Molly's Amerigreen gas station in Manheim. This does not mean that he's going to give Al Gore the veep call--and by the by, Obama never said at the Wallingford, PA town hall meeting that he might offer Gore a cabinet position. He was very careful not to reply in the affirmative when he took the question about whether he would consider Gore. Obama said, "I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table in figuring out these [global warming] problems." Well, at the table is one of Obama's favorite locutions. I've heard him say on several occasions that all Americans will be at the table one time or another. Obama's table is going to be a long one.
Last night Senator Obama had a few more words on the subject of choosing a vice president. "That last thing I'd say about a vice president is--obviously, you want someone who can be president and who shares a broad vision of where I want to take the country; don't have to agree with me on every particular, but shares with me a bias for opening up government, adding a rational discourse about how we're gonna solve problems, a bias towards empowering individual citizens." Those seats at the table again.
Note Obama's delicate sentence constructions. Never a gender pronoun--a he or a she--anywhere.
The San Francisco fundraiser was Senator Obama's fourth and final of the day. He had made appearances earlier in Atherton, Marin and around the corner at another Pacific Heights mansion. Even the Obama Campaign, I suppose, can never have too much money. The folks who came out on Sunday were not the very rich, even though these events were for people who have "maxed out" their donations. The very rich have long since given. The fact that so many middle class Californians are giving $2300 to Obama shows both the depth of prosperity in the state and the allure of the scent of victory.
UPDATE: Below is audio from the portion of the fundraiser detailed in this story. Apologies for the very poor quality.
UPDATE: The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer covered this piece, which you can view here.