Syndicated Columnist Clarence Page at the DNC Convention
Clarence Page was a bit wistful as we shared a Starbucks in Charlotte. We talked about the Weather Underground and the Bill Ayers drama of the 2008 campaign; Page telling me that he and Ayers were in Grant Park in proximity during Obama's major Chicago victory speech. We talked about 1968 Chicago, head bashing in the same park, and how Ayers and hippies' skulls were cracked by the cops.
These recollections serve as bookends of his four decades in journalism and with the Chicago Tribune.
Columnist Clarence Page, Tribune Washington Bureau, PBS commentator on Jim Lehrer's Newshour, and author, was voluble in his musings about Campaign 2012. He felt the magic of four years ago was long gone and the Democrats are simply in hunker-down, re-elect the president mode.
Page wants everyone to know that David Axelrod was his intern back in the 1970s. "I work that into just about every conversation," he teased.
He also predicted: "This election will be decided by a white, single mother, age 38, who lives in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio!"
We both spoke about North Carolina and its importance in last cycle's election race for Barack Obama. "Nobody really thought North Carolina would go his way," said Page. "I think some of the win had to do with so many college students," young people and first-time voters. He wondered aloud how this election might go in the Tarheel state.
The issue now is that white, blue-collar, union voters are not going to vote for President Obama, Page believes. He lost them somewhere along the way. It's all about the jobs.
"You know this election and the Charlotte convention sort of hangs like a ghost over elections past," Page said. He may have been quoting a piece in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine which he recommends as "a Hunter Thompson-esque" look at what is going down this year. It is by Mark Leibovich and called "Feel the Loathing on the Campaign Trail."
Page taught at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism when I was there in the late 1970s. However, he would put his alma mater, Ohio University, in the top echelons of J-schools. There was some general smack talk about the schools and then banter about how both football programs had come such a long way.
Healthcare, the Republicans claiming Obama is raiding Medicare and Medicaid to fund his Affordable Healthcare law, and how that issue plays were top-of-mind for Clarence Page. "Look, I've just turned 65 and I want to be sure Medicare is there for me, too."
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