A candidate that can say 'no' to the constituency? That's refreshing
CNN has been giving each of the potential presidential challenger candidates a solo night focus, town halls where people ask them questions and we voters can get to know them. Sounds like real gripping TV. I'm kind of a politics geek, enjoy listening to people whose egos allow them to think they could be elected president, but I haven't yet watched one of this year's CNN town halls, sorry Kamala Harris and Mr. Starbucks, Howard Shultz.
But I did listen to one. Last night my wife and daughter and I were coming back home from Bend and we had the news on the Sirius Radio, CNN … OK, the "fake news" to many fellow Jefferson County residents, where Donald Trump received about 70 percent of the 2016 vote.
Monday night, it was Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's shot to charm the nation. Tired of changing each other's music selections, my wife and I gave the program a moment to hook us. Then Klobuchar started talking. I'm great at snap judgments (mainly because I have an attention span of a squirrel).
"She has no chance," said the great political prognosticator himself. "She's boring and uninspiring."
"Oh," my wife said. "She's the one who is mean to her staff." That gave us reason to stay on the channel, at least until someone asked her why, you know, she's so mean to her staff. It took about two minutes.
"Thanks for the question," said the senator. Then she went on to pretty much nail the answer, calmly noting how many of her key staff members were with her there in New Hampshire that evening, including those who had been with her 10, 15 years. She admitted to having high expectations of her staff, but in general, deflected the issue that has dogged her initial campaign as if it wasn't a real problem.
"Bobby Kennedy was famous for being tough on his staffers," I told my wife. "I guess when a woman is, then she's just a (rhymes with stitch)." That double standard, and her capable answer to the question, kept us listening.
One guy, awash in student loan debt, asked if she would promise to work toward free four-year college for all. He wanted her reply to include a one word answer, yes or no. The candidate didn't immediately give that one word answer and came out more nuanced. She said we need student debt-holders to be more easily able to refinance, make college more affordable to those who need assistance, then, when pressed, eventually gave the guy the answer he didn't want to hear. "No, I'm not for free four-year college."
No is something she isn't afraid to say. While a staunch believer that we need to start making policy addressing global warming, she's not endorsed the Green New Deal that the more progressive Democratic upstarts are promoting. One of her strongest issues is health care, but she's not taking the "Medicare for All" bait. She's for improving what we have, making care more available and affordable. In the Senate, she fights against high drug prices and is backing efforts to have opioid manufacturers fund treatment facilities for addicts.
Klobuchar got her start in politics when, after having a baby born with the inability to swallow, she was still kicked out of the hospital after 24 hours. As a citizen, she testified before the Minnesota Legislature and pushed for a bill to allow at least 48 hours in a hospital to all birth mothers. Minnesota became the first state to approve that. It would become a federal law in the 1990s.
In her 30s and a partner in a law firm, she ran against a well-known Republican for the county attorney job (district attorney, essentially) in the largest county in Minnesota. She won by less than a percentage point. When she ran for re-election, no one challenged her, and she's been elected to the Senate twice by huge margins. The state that voted in wrestler Jesse Ventura governor, comedian Al Franken senator, and right-of-right Michele Bachmann to Congress loves their Senator Amy — and Amy is what she likes everyone to refer to her as.
I heard no grand hopes for big change, no chants from the audience. Just pragmatic concepts and promises of diligence and honesty. Kind of a quiet sense of capability. Klobuchar has worked hard for what would be liberal-progressive issues, but she's also a former prosecutor-pragmatist. She's a modern-day moderate from the great middle north of the country, the all-important Great Lakes states that often determine the presidential election. Did last time, may again in 2020.
The guy behind the wheel last night, who made the quick judgment that she had no chance, changed his mind by Juniper Butte. She's a player, I thought, and if Joe Biden thinks all centrist Democrats are his for the taking, he'd best enter this race pretty quick or this lady might put them in her pocket.
I liked her story about being a college kid at the Carter Library in Atlanta, looking for some memorabilia of one of her Minnesota heroes, Vice President Walter Mondale. Finally, she found a quote by him, about the Carter-Mondale one-term presidency.
"We told the truth, we obeyed the law, and we kept the peace."
Sure, it may not be wise to take direction and inspiration from a one-term presidency, but shouldn't that quote represent the first three ideals for any presidency? And sure, it may not be dripping with inspiration, but after 28 years of the heavy stylings of Bill Clinton, George II, Barack and Mr. Trump, some basic, "boring," steady, humble, pragmatic leadership might be just what the country needs.
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