>> ari berman, a contributing writer for the nation, recalls how the democratic party won the presidency and both houses of congress in 2008. the author explores how howard dean's decisions as chairman of the party and barack obama's presidential campaign attempted to make the democratic party more inclusive. and the current issues of the party faces today. ari berman presents his book at the clinton school of public service at the university of arkansas in little rock. the program is one hour. hi, everybody. can you hear me? >> it's an honor to be here, and
i think, you know, we are on day four. we kicked off tuesday. i personally don't think there's a better place to be talking about the past and future of the democratic party than little rock. and bill clinton's backyard. skip, i know the president said it was too bad he couldn't be here, right clicks of course. there was an interesting piece, i don't know if you guys saw the "new york times" today, but there's a very interesting headline that i just want to show. some in gop fight saucepot for bill clinton. which i don't think you would necessarily have seen maybe 10 years ago. they talk, if you all these republicans say nice things about president clinton's legacy, and ask one of the people quoted was wisconsin congressman paul ryan, a rising star in the gop. they say what about the fact that you impeached him? and ryan says i tried not to think about that.
i think this is a good lesson for barack obama to be having right now. the reason why i wrote this book is because i had covered a little bit, the 2006 in 2008 presidential campaign for the nation and have done a lot on the ground in depth reporting. i was fascinated by the ability of democrats to do two things. one was to bring in a lot of new people into the party. and, too, was to compete in all these traditionally conservative states that nobody thought they could win. places like indiana, places like north carolina, places like virginia. you guys in arkansas have had that for a while but i think that was something that shocked a lot of people. i was interest in the grassroots political movement that came up with the to the obama campaign and its relevance in politics today. and i thought a lot of the other
books published about obama after the election, while a lot of them were very good i thought were going to be about the president or about his inner circle. they were going to tell the broader story of the grassroots from the perspective of the organizers and activists, which i thought was so important. and as julie mentioned in her very nice introduction, that story for me really starts with howard dean and his campaign for the presidency. and i imagine a fair number of you are wes clark supporters, so i'm not sure how popular dean is in this room, but i think, regardless if you like dean or you don't like being, i think it's pretty obvious now that he really read the first campaign of the 21st century, that his campaign in terms of how it played out was radically different from george w. bush and al gore in 2000. the interesting thing is dean did not expect that to happen. he's a five term governor of
vermont, he wants to run for president, he says he wants to run for president because he wants to talk my balanced budget and health care reform, to issues that were close to his heart. he wants to be decanted he said for quote moderate republicans, moderate democrats, and independence. kind of like john mccain. he was going to a straight shooter, tell it like this, says i like all the other washington candids he had done this step because he was a governor. i was at the jimmy carter presidential library last night, and i mentioned that dean want to talk to jimmy carter and he said what should i do? carter says go to iowa. as recorded in 76 and since then, with the exception of really bill clinton, that's a premature presidential candidates launched their campaign, retail politicking in iowa. dean starts going to iowa in 2002. nobody has any idea who he is. he's trying to stay in people's homes. he is trying to meet people but they're like who is howard dean? this is crazy. you're not john kerry, you're not john edwards, you're not joe lieberman, you have no chance to
be present. but the water act starts heating up. all the major presidential candidates at the time are for the war, john kerry is for. john edwards is 40. joe lieberman is for it. and howard dean is kind of saint himself, if this war is kind of crazy, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to unilateral and then iraq. so he starts going to party gatherings in iowa and saying this stuff. and people start cheering. and they get kind of into it, and they say, dean is onto something. but no one really knows who he is. so there's this key moment in the book, 2003, he said he state democratic party gathering in washington, the annual winter meeting in washington. he flies and i read i. he meets with his supporters, he meets with his aides about half an hour before he sets the stage and he says what am i going to talk about.
his campaign manager who's a bit of a bomb thrower, i will talk about him any second, rancheria brown's campaign against clinton is always a hopeless insurgent, never wins but always stirs things up. history will repeat itself soon enough. in any case, he says you've got to pose these questions about what's wrong with the democratic party. say what the bleep is wrong with the democrats. and dean says no, that's too controversial. how about if i just posed these questions about what's happened to the democrats. so dean gets up at the dnc meeting, they like 10 minutes to speak. these events are very scripted, at what kinds of makes nice jokes about each other, plays nice that they just want to make a good impression, don't rock the boat. dean gets up there, i want to know is why so many democrats are support the president unilateral invention -- intervention in iraq. that he says, the same thing about the bush tax cuts and no child left behind, then he says the same thing about patient's
bill of rights. all of a sudden the room is kind of getting within. people are liking this message because no other candidate is articulating it. and he ends by essentially lifting a line from paul wellstone which is i'm howard dean and i'm here to represent the democratic wing of the democratic party. and the room just goes nuts. and it's interesting because he was challenging the democratic party in washington right to its core saying we need to stand up for core democratic values. at the people in the room in some ways they were the target of that, but they also believed that, too, that the democratic party had kind of started to lose its way, that just they were in power, in the '90s that they've done a lot of good things. yes, al gore won the presidency and had taken from them by the supreme court. but by the same time they're slow to react to the bush years and to stand up to the extremism of the bush administration. his campaign just took off. it went viral in a way that no
one had really seen. within a matter of months basically dean was in some ways embodying a new kind of politics which i talk about in the book. there were a few key points of this campaign which dean didn't start, didn't set out to do but came up around it. one was the idea that you can mobilize a lot of people were the quickly over the internet. the other was volunteers go to college so much more for your campaign than just having the best political consultants. the other was that the playing field could be leveled for exotic candidates and there was an opening for insurgents that was different than previous ways, and i think as the dean campaign evolves, another interesting idea was that democrats had to go fight everywhere, including in so-called red america, stand up for what they believe in an articulate core principles. he was adamant about campaigning
in idaho in places like the. i start chapter one with dean going to idaho in august 2003. and his staff is you're crazy, why are you going to idaho. he had already been there once and he wanted to go again. people don't take over and there. people say why going to idaho? he gets off the tarmac and 500 democrats are there waiting for him holding dean for america signs that i think about it what he was trying to do. the interesting thing is that, this is somehow he relates to the clinton model, dean had been a very devoted clintonite. is role model is to put. dean was for free trade, he was for welfare we form. dean was for the death penalty. they were both centerleft democrats, but dean want to be by like bill. and i said campaign took off, dean was placed in stark opposition to the clintons because the clintons were
thought of as the washington establishment. that's not necessarily what dean wanted to do but that's how he got phrase. i think part of the reason that happen is these insurgents they came up through the party, they respected the a competence of bill clinton in the '90s but they also collecting the strategy of triangulation wasn't as applicable in the bush era because bush started out so far to the right that if you try to meet him in the middle he is going to drag you further and further right. that's what happened with the bush tax cuts, for example. basic there was a lot less is to be learned but now was a new air, and at what had to adapt and putting the clintons the. it's interesting, this incredible amount of innovation, but the irony is being had this great campaign organization set up in every state but iowa. hillary clinton made the same mistake four years earlier. dean was talking to bill clinton as he was really getting --
daemon from nobody by about november 2003 to have one thought he was going to be the nominee. there was a piece in your times say white team could still lose. no, he's winning, forget about it. that dean was still pretty ugly talking to clinton, and clinton told him, listen, if you want to be the nominee you have to act like the president. you have to move from insurgent mode to front runner mode. and dean could never do that i was in iowa three days before the caucus. i'm actually from my website been there a law. i was there three days before the caucus and away to seek dean speak at his opening acts were joan jett and janine groff will. i'm thinking to myself, i don't know if i want these two people closing the deal in iowa that kind of. john kerry's barnstorming the state with his former swift boat buddy, and john edwards had these crazy inspirational town halls, new age touch everybody
event. and dean is kind of out there, sorry, -- [laughter] that's not what i meant. but he's again, different connotation. essentially being new clinton was right but he was intoxicated by the same thing in a certain. and he could never pin it. so his campaign falls apart in iowa that everyone knows what happened to horrible third place finish. the screen. and the screen again is are like the first new me take a the 21st century. because if he's in a really loud room, he's young but he's young to hear on the ground. when you see the clip all you hear is him yelling. like what is his to range lunatic yelling? and it's all of a sudden everyone instantaneous and it takes a week for them to post the other via. buy that it's too late. jay leno is saying they have mad
dean disease. it over for them. everything he belt gets destroyed pretty quickly. that's the conventional wisdom in washington that dean hazard a closer he will melt and up and up until there is no howard dean. so for me what was fascinating is a year later he was back. he is chair of the democratic party. what? how did that happen. i thought this guy was done. the interesting thing is dean speak at the 2004 democratic convention, and he speaks on the same night as a young state senator named barack obama. during the convention dean has a meeting with the state democratic party chairs. and they're mostly from states that are either to read or too good to get any from the democratic party's. in new york, california, or it's like texas or georgia or someplace. they are all saying to dean, we can't even get a bumper sticker out here for john kerry. we are starving for resources. trinity has just come from
campaigning and knows there's democrats edward. he said this doesn't make any sense. a lightbulb goes off in his head, the same with the john kerry and john edwards are being nominated, the electoral map has been set in stone. the entire election will be fought on the playing field of ohio with no margin for error whatsoever for the democrats. and, of course, that happen. they'll competitive thousand in ohio and it all comes down to ohio in 2004. two key states lost and the presidency goes that way. dean says i want to do a 50 state strategy. that is surprisingly controversial. it sounds like common sense now. i think it was controversial for two reasons. one is that if you remember back to the states after 2004 we were in a red versus blue battle. list it's called the red states jesus land. i remember because i was in new york and i saw those e-mails that the red states that the blue states were contributing, turning them into a godless country. this was supposed the about,
like a clash of civilizations. i grew up and i was on like this is crazy. these days, they are red, blue, they change. the country is much more fluid than that. and i think dean saw that, too, that is not so set in so but i think in a hard time getting that across the pundits and the other problem was just at the democratic party has never functioned that way before. they hadn't ever prioritize local party organizing in such an expensive way. and so he runs which are of the party and basically all the major establishment of players oppose him also. there's a nice thing in the book where dean is running for chair and a driver of bush's inauguration and there's a party at mark penn's house. hillary's campaign manager in georgetown. there was a ton of positive energy at the house except for the fear and loathing of howard dean. these guys did one empty chair but what he figured i was not only with the rank-and-file
rested and what to do something different but there was always new people becoming part of the party. some the traditional establishment have had a hard time relating to the and understanding it that there's an interesting quote from james carville in the book who really never liked dean. he said the thing that stuns me about this is a this is supposed be a rig to deal chair of the party. you're supposed to get a phone call and that's who you vote for. i think in some ways that was a decent summary of how it'd been done previously and how things will change. and i think the establishment in washington was slow to relate to that. and i think you saw some of that in 2006 when dean did his 50 state strategy and had this big fight with rahm emanuel who is chair of the democratic congressional campaign committee. he basically went to see dean as if you need to get the money for my targeted races. that's where the battle is that. rahm have a point. but dean had a point, too.
which is let's devote. let's build of the party and that will help everybody. let's let this new extent work and don't just discarded in the first major election or else we will never know if it will work. a former dnc chair joe and to tommy, rahm forgot that dean didn't work for him. that effect was an independent power base, and that was at that point the dnc. i mention all of this as kind of a prelude to the obama campaign because the obama campaign, and again, i imagine there's a lot of people industry that supported hillary clinton some only going to talk about the clintons in term of things that i think that maybe they could've done differently and maybe it would've turned out differently for her. i think one of those things was that the obama campaign, obama knew that there was a certain segment of the population know when you have a, that wanted something different and that didn't want for whatever reason
justified or not, didn't want hillary clinton. they wanted an alternative to her. they had to figure out very early on how are they going to bypass the establishment. because hillary had a lot of major support for justified reasons, starting out. so obama was like how can i get around that. and the best model for him was howard dean. because dean, he crashed and burned as potential candidate, but he had gone pretty far in the event successfully as as chair of the party. so there's an interesting scene in the book with david plotz was obama's campaign manager is meeting with a young new media person named joe roe sparked the growth bars worked on the pink campaign and was new media for howard dean at the dnc and was brought in for that reason. plus says lesson from hillary has all the money people. she's got all these dollars. she's off endorsement. so we've got to do it another way you what it's going to work is if it is bottom-up and so can
you raise a bunch of money over the internet basically. rose bar says schiavo weak have got to do by craig this grassroots movement and inspire people. we can just tap them for money. that give them some ownership of the campaign. that really became the genius of the obama campaign was how to meld bottom up politics from top down structure which greatly could figure out to get and which obama did figure out to be. liked dean, obama was somewhat at an insurgent. liked dean started out with not a lot of support among the party establishment. liked dean, his calling card was opposition to the war in iraq that obama doesn't give a speech against the war, there's no rationale for his candidacy because hillary had supported of the war at that point iran poses major area major area of distinction, which blended together as a governor a long. but at the beginning that was the key moment. if you look at that, there's a lot of similarities but there's also a lot of differences, which
obama is not a natural insurgent. that's not his -- is not a fiery type of turkey doesn't really like doing things pipers. we will talk about later. it is kind of hurting these days. and so obama figured out how to be sort of a moderate innovative that he figured out how to take the best of some of the innovations but also figure out how to blend in with what had been done previously. and i think that instead of iced him. there instead of eyes to pursue things differently. for as hillary clinton, wasn't. she basically thought that she did many traditional 1990s campaign and win. i think she thought that for good reason because that's what her husband did. that was the model. that was the only successful model. al gore distanced himself from bill clinton to his own terrible. the feeling was bill clinton is
popular. i'm going, i mean, some of that will translate to me. i have a record. i put in all my work. i put my head down. i get all the establishment support and that will be enough. it turned out it wasn't. it was interesting to place to look was south carolina. and in south carolina what happens is the obama people come in and was after line of politics at work, which is the way it works a lot places, you basically have to buy people forget to give money to the preachers and to the establishment folks, put them on retainers as part of your campaign and it will go get the vote out for you. there was this big pastor in colombia the obama people want to they went in and said okay, we will give you thousand bucks a month. he said, let me see. he calls hillary, clinton campaign gets in 20,000 a month. so they bomb a people are like when i going to build to compete with it. at the same time, there was all these younger obama organize in south carolina, a few of them
had come up through dean. they want to do a complete different model which was trying to hold house meetings across the state which is what dean had done so successfully in hand you. >> we've got to just white house days and it will grow the campaign from there. we will spread house by house by house. and it will create this ripple these effect on what we'll do is train volunteers to run the campaign because we won't have the money at that point in time to buy off every pastor. so the interesting thing is that was going along for a while and when obama wins iowa, i wish i because i figured people were looking at polls in iowa, enabling kind of you that there's a good chance obama could win. two days after the election i just happened to be in cincinnati, and i was, before want to hop new hampshire, and i was talking to some friends of mine who are primarily republicans and they hadn't followed the campaign that closely. they were shocked barack obama won iowa. they could not believe it. it was like the greatest thing
they've ever heard. that's what economy people just starting to pay attention. that's what happened to the obama campaign is that suddenly there was an explosion of energy and obama, because of these house meetings, had created a grassroots structure that could be multiplied so quickly. so once it became the struggle for people, obama was in this really well place position to just ratchet up his campaign. it just grew and grew and grew to the point where nothing could stop it. bill clinton tries to sort of belatedly come to south carolina and save the state for hillary, but at that point had gone too far. you saw that replicated in so many states in the primary went on. obama, because it is bottom-up base, into states like idaho and just incredibly well, and the clinton campaign was never a preparatory. it was a part the playbook. her playbook was essentially when i will, new hampshire and go from there.
the interesting thing about the clinton campaign is that end up helping obama because winning new hampshire i think was the best thing ever happen for obama because he was not prepared to be president or vice president before the. he just hadn't been properly governed he had been through the grinder. and not only that, but when i talk to obama people about it, they said the best thing that ever happened for us was losing new hampshire because it motivates people to work even harder now. new hampshire was the one scene where hillary had a sharp a grassroots organization because bill clinton's ties there. doubt organize obama their from the very beginning. so the interesting thing is by prolonging the primary and refusing to drop out when other people are telling her to, and also howard dean refusing to shut him down with love obama people telling him to, that expand the political battlefield. all of a sudden now on may 6
obama is in india that he's in north carolina but he's camping and all the seats and kind of like howard dean did, he is a there's always democrats there that are just going to go to primary. they might even vote a general election that reason transform will blow. into the general election once it happens with this vastly expanded political map. i found that so fascinating to watch. i was in indiana for the last three days before the election. if you had told me at the beginning of the campaign i was going to be spinning election day in indiana, i would've said you're crazy. a democrat hadn't campaign immediate since 1968 basically. ever since bobby kennedy. and so this was kind of a really radical thing. i remember i was in grant park. just to see that video scream, i'm sure all you guys watch it on tv, to see them announce all these states going for that they called indiana and ohio,
colorado all these places, this is going to be an electoral landslide. this is something pretty amazing. the question now is what happened? that's the question everybody's asking me. how did we get from that euphoric moment in grant park to the explosion of the key parties today, and to a situation where democrats are probably going to lose a lot of seats in november. there's a reason i made the subtitle of the book a fight to rebuild the democratic party and reshaped american politics because this didn't end up through obama's election if there's a good quote which is you need to be and often is to be a democrat, you need to be a humorist to stay one. and to some extent, that's what we're seeing a. i just everything want to go through a few things of what i think has maybe gone wrong with the administration. the most obvious which i don't think they could have controlled at any point is the economy.
and now that the economy is disproportionate affecting a key segment of the obama coalition. i think this is a major point because young people, certain minority groups, single women, this was like kind of the backbone from day one of the obama campaign. and if they are struggling to get a job or they're losing their home, it's going to make them a lot less likely to be the have time to volunteer, or be motivated to do it. i think the corollary of that though is that the administration, obama when he ran, he was very consistent. his model is going to be a new model. he was going to get millions of active obama supporter to be part of governance in washington to affect the legislative process, and they're going to create a grassroots people powered army that was going to be able to thwart the entrenched special interest in washington. that was going to be obama's -- who is that you can't fight the special interest if you're part of a. you have to have an alternate powerbase.
obama that he had a. clinton not that the interesting thing is you look at the team that obama surrounded himself with, and i hate to say this, but i think it starts with his ex-chief of staff rahm emanuel which is if you only surround yourself with the insiders, it starts to take a toll. which is bad to say that he didn't need some people like rahm in his white house, and i think in some ways they can start taking it over. it didn't make a similar space for the grassroots part of it. you need to mix and i think obama in some over learn the lessons of the clinton years, which is the clinton people came in and they told congress this is the what is going to be done and they came in with a lot of smart, brash, kind of insurgent types, and other people from arkansas that weren't that well regarded by the traditional washington players in the capital. and it backfired on clinton. so i think they said okay we need to pitch on a washington capital insiders. we need to put it in our
administration and we will make the same mistake. obama was 50 points i've point-nancy pelosi or harry reid. he was the one for the poker capital. he was supposed to be the reformer. and i think they bought into much of the business as usual in washington without really trying to change it, without trying to change the legislative system and to get the people involved. one of the interesting things that's indicative of this is the fact that howard dean doesn't get a job in the administration. undertrained to the party picks up six governors seats, 14 senate seats, 85 house seats, 15 legislative chambers pick on election night, one first page of my book, obama tells dean after his speech, your 50 state strategy laid the groundwork for my campaign. nothing. and i think the fact that dean wasn't a must-have administration, but i think the fact he was not come and snow to so publicly, he wasn't even there when obama announced his virginia governor tim kaine as chief of staff.
well, dean is in america some of which was true. dean visited every state and political territory to vote they didn't say what track he would have postponed his trip to be there went obama wanted to be but the white house decide they were giving them jobs i did one end of a press conference to face a question about it. so once the platoon is that i think that personified in some way a broader exclusion of the grassroots base. because dean was someone with a lot of credibly among the party rank-and-file and could've been a useful ambassador. and instead, they can snag some of those kind people and leaned heavily more on people like rahm which diluted obama's brain. then what they did try to do was interesting was they tried to but some the obama organization inside the party, the democratic national committee. that was going to be the grassroots force. two problems with it. right at the the election was a key time when you had to mobilize people. so many people i knew, young people, wanted to know how to
help. what they were told was by them. come to the niger nation. that was the meaningful participation. in some sense, the same sense of ownership these people felt in the campaign, they get together what to give him some ownership in the white house. organizing for america, it took a long time to get it up and running. and then once the up and running they were given the freedom to organize effectively because they weren't about to go after democrats who were blocking the president's agenda. key parts of the presents a general block by democrats. it wasn't on republicans who got us into trouble. is people like ben nelson, and people like blanche lincoln. essentially the interesting thing is that there wasn't a lot of teeth behind organizing. and at the same time they tried to a party establishment. the thing is the party had really been built up under dean. the 200 organizers.
they are in much better condition and after the election of those organizers, their contracts expired so they left. it took a long time to fill the vacuum. obama could easily come he had the money. he could have easily kept the 50 state -- state strategy. he could have done both. i think that would both give him the strength of local level in the party and i think it would have given him his own mobilization. that would've been outside the dnc or affiliate with them but would've allowed him to push his legislative policies. that would've helped them win a tea parties emerged which is what i'm going to get too. i think the key parties are interesting in this point, doesn't get made often enough which they copied the dean and obama played the. they absolutely so what dean was doing and saw what obama was doing its and we need to do that. we need to get out industries. we need to mobilize. we need to make republicans pay attention to what we're doing and make them take his cities at
that if you look at the moment the key parties emerged, it was obvious 2009 during the health care debate over the recess. remember democrats recess without health care plan and without knowing was a present for public auction, if he was, why was he fighting for. see, was going on with the gang of six negotiation. this thing was like dragging on and on. and had become very dysfunctional. and i think it's a simple but very dysfunction obama was running against. at the same time obama supporters, i was in colorado springs over the recess, conservative parts of the country, and i was hanging out with obama activists who did well in colorado springs. they were psyched about that neither saying well, what can we do on health care. they didn't know. so at the same time that obama's movement was being the mobilize, the right was mobilizing. and i don't think disappointed
that i think the mobilization on right was in some ways a response to the demobilization on the left. that created somewhat of a situation of asymmetric warfare where the right is really mobilized and energize, and and democrats are not mobilize and are at energize and that plays itself out for a long time. we are still in some way playing out today. there's a quote in the book by so let's get who is of course a famous committee organized has become an unlikely favor of the tea party and he says the first rule of change is controversy. you can get away from it for the simple issue of all changes controversial, and a great heat and friction to keep a movement going. and in some sense, that was what the clintons were telling barack obama, that listen, the right is going to try to destroy you. you better be prepared for it. obama thought no, i'm going to
reach across the aisle, i'm going to be a bipartisan bridge built. i think he tried and he was sincere about that, but once chuck grassley was part of a gang of six of debate and say obama was going to pull the plug on granny during the health care debate, once it's obvious the right was a co-oping, obama needs to go back to his own mobilization and say okay, we're in a turf war here in the trenches and i need my side to come out. now they're saying that with the midterms a month away, but it's not just a switch you can turn on and off. the interesting thing is i think there's some lessons here, the tea party is going that now and i think obama campaign proved it, you can't just take your people for granted. you can't just tell them they're important during the election and ignore them once you're there, that they need, you need to get them involved in some way in your administration that i think it goes both ways which i think a lot of people in the obama movement or the coalition, whatever you want to call it, trusted obama to do the right
thing after the election. he will appoint the best people. he knows what's best. presidentpresidents get put in a bubble. they need to be pushed to the famous fdr quote when he tells a famous labor later i want to do it, now make me do it. i think to some of that the progressive movement and the obama supporters need to organize on their own and realize in some ways an outside power race like ronald reagan had with the new right and some of those would help him. so instead of disparaging the professional left, figure out how to use them. these people want obama to succeed in his agenda but they want his agenda to be as bold as possible. they don't want to linger. i think there's frustration on the base have anything some of that frustration israel. and instead of just, stop whining, like joe biden said, though inspire them to give them a reason to go out and work. it's not an out of we will be in
a situation because when people say that when democrats it was our tea party, my response is you have what it was the obama campaign. it was the democratic party after the primaries when the clinton people and the obama people united, and they were we defined the political map in all these different states. i don't think that's a navigable that that will necessarily go away because i think the interesting thing is both the bride and the left now agree that crap's roots politics were. obama can prove to his campaign and the key parties are moved -- putting it now. that's a different situation that we face before. what's less certain is how does it play in governance. can it play in governance? i maintain that it could come and obama didn't try. so the jury is still somewhat out on that but i think what's very clear is the message of change is very powerful. i mean, the tea party said the same message the obama campaign had, which is we want to change our country, we want to take our government back and take our
country back, take back america was the slogan of the dean campaign. i think that's a different connotations now with the tea party. but there's no doubt about it that one of obama's top pollsters just hope in the book, we don't own the market on change. it's important that obama keeps rejecting, i'm not going to see to play monday many quarterback and pretend i have all the answers for barack obama, i'm using what i've learned for the reporting in this book, which is obama was elected as a change agent and the more he seems that way and the more he positions himself as change in washington, the better off i think he will be. and i think a corollary of that is i think, this is an interesting for the democratic party, this is a key issue, not on now that post november, which is what do you stand for books what are your core principles? obama has passed for all his thoughts a pretty full body legislative agenda, stimulus, health care, financial reform,
skip has a money stuff i forgot about, national service, very good expansions and reform the student loan industry, for example. but democrats aren't talking about that. they seem to be running away from the very competent at the same with the white house on health care. you can't just pass health care and assume it's going to be popular. you have to everyday go out and educate people for why you did it and how it's going to help people. if you don't do it, then the right wing populism of the tea party, which blames government, is going to be very powerful. the interesting thing for me as i thought obama after the election just like he did in the campaign was going to make an affirmative case for the power of government to help people at a time of need, like fdr had done during the new deal, and i democrats have done so effectively through the years. if you look at obama speech at the inauguration, and i was there. i'm sure some of you were there, or unsure watched it, he said in a speech it's not about whether government is too big or too small, it's whether government works.
and i that is going to make every pragmatic case for the power of government. and i thought that if he did that, that he could prevent an lot of the right wing pipe system from spreading to instead what's happened is obama has been low to make that item and that his agenda is some anonymous to bailouts. which is crazy to me because the bailout wasn't his idea. he didn't do it to that was bush's bailout. but at the same time, he's getting hit for things that he didn't do, which i think was why it is incumbent to try to distance himself from some of that. and really can't get the democratic party to stand up for what they believe in. i think the interesting thing is in terms of the obama coalition right now, in terms of democratic party coalition, the democratic party is a big tent for all its flaws but there's another famous will rogers go, i'd belong to no democrat passionate political party. i'm a democrat.
is the people that you like your just going to go back to washington and vote against all the key planks of what the parties for comment and think they think question, is it worth having them there. and i think that debate played out somewhat when i was down here in arkansas during the primary where people were saying okay, what does it mean to be a democrat, and what does it mean to be a democrat in a red state or a right-leaning state. i don't think that that debate has been resolved yet. but one thing is hopeful in the book ends with a section on texas, which is you can't just be cyclical. you have to take a long view of the stuff that i think that was one of the sport things that try to get ethics is one of the things obama people have tried and are trying to do which is look long-term, where are the demographics changing works where are the opportunities what you might not get there in four years, but start organizing. texas, tons of electoral votes
that if democrats win texas, they can have a functioning electoral majority for a very long time. really smart to do. and i think they need to keep doing it. they need to keep campaigning in arkansas, keep campaigning in georgia, keep campaigning in idaho. maybe they will lose in 2010, maybe they will lose in 2012 but if they keep making an effort eventually some of those states will swing back to democrats. you will start to develop also some sort of progressive institutions there that can then get better democrats elected which i think some of the progressive coalition tried to do with the hall to raise. the final thing i would just talk about is what's going to happen in 2010. i don't really know, quite the i don't think anyone. i think democrats will hold the senate. i think it's unclear if they will hold the house. i think probably not but i'm not
sure. the interesting thing is, okay, it's a good thing if obama loses the house was this is a question a lot more more democrats are talking about now, skip and i were talking about earlier. there's two possibilities. this is where the clinton example becomes very illustrative that obama is facing a summer situation in clinton. clinton got things done in his first term that didn't seem that pipe at the time but later proved, like his budget that i think obama and health care and the stimulus will be a similar situation. i think that both of them had trouble adjusting, they were both washington outsiders and had trouble adjusting to the climate and working with video. and i think both of them are facing major losses in the first midterm election. i think clinton responded well to 94, and he was held in a great way by the overreach of republicans. and that's one reason why losing the house might not be so barred -- bad for obama because
suddenly a useful for that all these tea party people get elected. some of them will propose some major conservative pieces of legislation. obama can highlight that and say i'm the reasonable one. i'm the guy who's in the middle. that's what obama wanted to do from day one but he said trouble communicating that. and part of that is because clinton was positioned himself as a different kind of democrat, and obama voted to hold ideological argument. obama was all thanks to all people which is the genius of the campaign is sometimes when you're pressed as president you have to show exactly who you are. people don't have a sense of sort of obama's character but they don't have a sense of where he is politically. some democrats don't have that sense. during the health care debate that turned. you've got to get on the hill and fight for public auction if you are for you obama, you know, i'm above the fray. i think he realizes that he can do that, that he is the theater of the party for better or for worse and it's going to rise and
fall. based on what he does. so i think in some ways losing the house could be good for him. the counterfactual is if they start investigating him like they did to clinton, if you thought the clinton years were bad, wait until you see the things they do for obama. birth certificates, every crazy right wing rumor you can imagine will get a hearing in congress. and i think that's going to be frustrating, disappointing. it may, in fact, clarify why the republican party is right now. and that may be nasty and mushy, but i think it may help the president. the other side is if obama decides the senate tried to cut a lot of deals with republicans with a smaller majority, because he can try to cut a smaller deal and say i'm going to cut deals on the deficit, i'm going to cut deals on social security, the bush tax cuts expire, and then i were regain my standing for but republicans. or he could say, listen, i passed a lot of stuff to the
house already, 420 bills have passed the house, and are dormant in the senate. is because of the incessant misuse of the filibuster by republicans. if obama comes back with 52 votes in the senate, which i think is about what he would get do, soon or later we will have to have this conversation which is that nothing can get done with the senate and a spare 60 votes. that's the new standard. we are paralyzed. washington is paralyzed because of it. and i think this is a conversation, the number of filibusters have doubled since the last time democrats were in the minority, so it's going to unprecedented levels. two or later if obama wants have a transformative agenda, we have to have a conversation. yes to start the conversation. start the conversation about how to get out of legislative gridlock and i think the filibuster, regards of what happens with the majority i think is long overdue. and so i think those are sort of my parting thoughts but it's an
interesting situation we're in right now that everything is in flux and you guys don't have a lot of questions. i appreciate you having and it is a thrill to talk. hope i didn't ramble too much. [applause] >> great political discussion. questions now. right here. >> you talked a lot about how grassroots was a good tactic against more traditional back in the past couple of elections. but we are in a new political arena now, with almost everybody using this grassroots motive. and new movements popping up like a tea party, the third wave, plus traditional republicrepublican and democratic movements. is that going to be information overload in 2012? and how, especially for then the people who are just organizing their thoughts about politics, i
mean, what are the ethics going to be and was 2012 going to look at what do you have any ideas on that? >> i think what was proven by the obama campaign and by the tea party is you can just post a twitter message and call the grassroots. that you have to be online and off-line, and your to build those two worlds. the reason why the obama campaign was so interesteinterested in immediate and use of facebook so much is because they knew it could activate people to go volunteer and do things off-line. they could bring in money which would allow them to build a traditional organizing in places across the country. so they figured out how to choose both. i think to be successful you can just do sort of astroturf grassroots. i think the republicans have proven that. for longtime the right has tried to do some sort of mobilization like the tea party. they could never do it. they tea party came about in sort of spontaneous way. motivated by some hardcourt
constituents. that's the reason why it was able to be successful because there was underlying conviction and substance behind. you can agree with or not but they believed what he believed. 2012, i didn't get this to end my speech, but i think what impact the tea party has employed well. my feeling is that if separate in runs she's the nominee. because nobody is going to be able to stop or. she's going to have so many tea party people out in effect for. it will be kind of like a situation in iowa were mitt romney shows up and he is one of the people and sarah palin shows up and she has 2000. maybe it will get thin after a while and maybe she'll make a bunch of gas and this is the lack of substance will eventually hurt or. but it hasn't hurt her yet among republicans. the most likely, republicans generally tend to rally around the establishment candidate. it happens almost every time the nominee everybody. it happens over and over and over.
that run is that person this year. i think that romney would be a very difficult candidate in a bad economy because he's a background, i think you get a lot of independent support and hold the republican party and maybe even pick off some democrats. obama basically passed mitt romney's health care bill. so it's going to be an interesting question, and i don't think he has an answer to republican primary voters. every exploration i've seen of romney hasn't answered that question. he hasn't differentiated himself enough from it. kind of like we saw with the democrats in 2012, you're going to see a lot more of an established a grassroots battle in the republican party. i'm not saying that sarah palin is an establishment because she is. she's also is and i think will be the candidate of the tea party and i will prove. and then she can win a primary and get a general election? i don't think so. you never know but i don't think so that i think obama would go
in as the favorite against payment. >> first off, thank you so much for being here. we enjoyed your talk. there's been a lot of talk in the media recently about potential switch of maybe hillary clinton moving to the vice president spot. is there any legitimacy to that? if so, what effect do you think that might have? >> i think it's every geek is rumored. i don't think any high level hillary people are flooding that. i think at an event tuesday and it was suggested bob woodward sources might have been hillary's hairdresser. i suggested it might been mark penn's hairdresser. [laughter] i think it's much more likely that hillary becomes secretary of defense. as kevin r. singh, first woman secretary of defense. that would be powerful. should be able to get secretary of defense. if obama gets elected, she could
still run 2016. and if obama loses she could still run 2016 and should be the favorite. either way she's not running in 2012. why would she want to be vice president? why would she say no then when obama was at peak popularity and do it now when he's going to have a hard slot of a campaign? it makes no sense. it's the kind of conversation that makes people dislike the media. because why are we talking about it because why are we talking about it because why are we talking about it i don't know how to about it i don't know how to get started. spent i want to echo his thank you so thank you. very interesting to you talk. i'm curious if you could share your opinion on the recent citizens united supreme court case and what effect you think that's going to have and what do you think it's ultimatelultimate legacy might be. >> there's a great article in the new times about evidence
reporting on this, too. i think it's very, very, very worrisome because i think our lives systems already a wash in money and already a washing corporate money. and now it's getting drastically expanded. i think what you're seeing is on the right, essentially and a third party groups are trying to buy the midterms. they can swoop in to my house and dropped $1 million in ad and there's no recourse. we don't know how effective those ads will be. we don't know if they will backfire, but the very fact you can do so easily now has just green light an already dysfunctional political system to get worse. and so you saw in 2004, democrats spent a lot outside money, and it wasn't that effective. so in some ways it's always better to do it through the party and to the campaigns and control your message. but at the same time the fact that you have now instead of isaac corporations to give money is scary. it's not being felt in a way
that exxon mobil is turning around and getting a million dollar check to tim griffin, let's just so a name out of the hat, tim griffin. it's more likely because there's some blowback. it's more likely to get one thing dollars to groups like american crossroads, gps. what is american crossroads gps but does anyone know it's an run by karl rove? know. most people don't know that. so that's the interesting thing, it starts to get murky. democrats are nothing -- we need to do this, too. that's the worrisome situation that essentially, you know, the billionaires fight off on both sides and that was exactly not the model that obama was predicated, that ordinary people make a tremendous amount of difference in the political process through their 5-dollar contributions. rather than, there's two things he can do. most obvious legislative takes is to disclose act which has failed twice in congress that it
failed in the senate by 59 votes that again, shouldn't been a failure. 59 votes should have guaranteed passage. it underscores my point. the other thing i think we have to do is start talking about passing the fair elections act, which just passed the house the committee actually and it sounds like it will never happen. he could make federal law. but you have to start somewhere and i think the only response is an lesh overturned, which is a possibility, although unlikely the supreme court which data, we do that, but unless you consent to overturn it i think you have to have alternate ways to level the playing do. the combination of disclose and fair elections, i would like him and when he gets back to washington after midterm, if he gets reelected i would like obama to have the sort of fight washington corruption agenda where he starts talking about systemic problems, and the link
between the amount of money in our political system and what's going on in our economy that be think it's pointed is there was a bailout with no strings attached? i think he needs to make the links between these things and try to get people motivated to do something about it. like mccain-feingold, they are stirring it can happen. we have to start the conversation now. >> any other questions? yes, sir. >> i'd like to echo my fellow students thank you for being here. it's been very interesting. all this talk of the strength of some of these movements, tea party movement, some these other grassroots campaigns, does this lead you, or it can be talking about a possible multiparty system at some point or extend the conversation? like you said, having some of these people in government highlights the moderation.
>> people always say they want a third party in this country, but our political system isn't set up to do. we don't have a parliamentary democracy. and third party candidates face all sort of challenges. from getting onto the ballot to the electoral college, ross perot was kind of the peak of the stuff, and i think he got about as far as you can get. it would be nice if we had a few more parties to make sure that, but i don't think it will happen. in 2012, if sarah palin is the nominee, i hate to go back to it, but if palin is the nominee come and if obama is perceived as very liberal democrat, i believe obama is a liberal democrat. i believe he is a centrist centerleft democrat, but if he is perceived, which he is in some circles, as very liberal and a business democrat, which i think is an unsaved -- unfortunate stigma, i think you can see some space for third party candidate in the middle who could peel off some of the sewer -- more center democrats.
could they play spoiler, could be someone like michael bloomberg, for example, who has sort of run on a moderate republican pro-business platform. i don't think bloomberg would you but i think he would only run if he thinks he has a chance at being president. i think there could be a space for a third party candidate in 2012, but i think for now the fight is between the parties. in both parties for what they will look like. >> well, we are glad that you were here on day four of your book too. we are honored to have a c-span films presentations all to you can watch herself somewhere in the not-too-distant future. and for those of you who are interested in learning about 2008, 2010 elections, we have one of the most talented political writers here with us today. let's thank ari berman. >> thanks so much, guys. [applause]