In a Thursday night appearance on the PBS show Charlie Rose, it was revealed that the Democratic ticket could have been Obama-Brokaw. Rose reported: "I think it was Caroline Kennedy who said that when they have the short [running mate] list for Barack Obama, there was a name down there somewhere?" Tom Brokaw replied: "My name was on it." Rose pestered Brokaw to go into public service after his latest NBC stint ends: "There comes a time, you are reminding me of a conceited anchorman who once said to raise your right hand to enlist." Brokaw didn’t utterly reject the idea of serving a new administration: "I understand the need to step up from time to time, and if the right opportunity came along, I would certainly be willing to take a good, hard look at that."
Rose also curiously worried that a President Obama might end up being a very cautious centrist: "What do you make of him? Tell me what you see there. Because I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, I see someone who is clearly aspirational, someone who is clearly bright, someone who is clearly ambitious in the best sense of that, but who is clearly cautious, and in the end, he may very well be a man of the center."
Later, he came back to the same idea: "Let me come back to Obama. Is he, in your judgment, even though he has a liberal voting record in the Senate, essentially a man of caution, a man of the center, a man who doesn’t want a whole lot of dissension around him?"
Brokaw strangely suggested Obama was a cautious centrist running for the Democratic nomination, which is certainly not how he ran, especially in highlighting his eternal opposition to a war in Iraq, to the delight of MoveOn.org and Code Pink:
I think he is a cautious guy and I think if there is a central tenet, as I watch him, I don`t know whether it is the central tenet in his political philosophy, it certainly -- it is in his political instinct, which is to move to the center because that`s where I am a going to, A, get the nomination and, B, given the challenges that we are facing in this country, if I get elected president, and we still don`t know whether that will happen or not, it is the only way that I can be remotely successful. I can`t go out and stake out the left side of the room and expect to govern.
Brokaw came on PBS to plug the paperback edition of his book on the 1960s, titled "Boom!" He stuck to his odd assertion from early this year that ideology is playing no role in this election: "I think what is unique about it is -- certainly in contemporary terms is that all of the assumptions of the last several election cycles have been utterly scrambled in all of this. I said last spring, I think, values will still be an important part of it, but this not an election about ideology, as the last several election cycles have been. This is about solutions and finding new ways."
Rose then recirculated an October 26 column from pseudo-conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote about how the Republican Party needs to "modernize" and reject its Reaganite, free-market aspects. Brokaw then seemed to disagree with himself, that the election did have an ideological result. It showed conservatism was leading to the GOP's destruction:
ROSE: This is David Brooks, I`m sure a column you saw called "Ceding the Center," and he ends it with this paragraph. "He has become an experienced legislative craftsman," he is talking about John McCain. "He is stalwart against the country`s foes and cooperative with its friends, but he never escaped the straitjacket of a party that is ailing and a conservativism that is behind the times. And that is what makes the final weeks of this campaign so unspeakably sad." What comes out of that is whether -- is this so much more about the party and the time than the man?
BROKAW: You know, the old lessons of history just are renewed every 10, 12, 15 years or so. In 1968, you could have said the same thing about the Democrats, and I write about that in the book. The FDR coalition came to an end in 1968 on the streets of Chicago and in other places. And the Republicans had reinvented themselves under the guidance of Richard Nixon, and with the help of Pat Buchanan and others, they moved into the South and far West. They reached out to what came to be known as the Reagan Democrats and pulled them into their party.
And the Democrats broke themselves up into 1,000 different parts, and remained that way until Bill Clinton came and reestablished a center and then that went away again. So now you have a Republican Party that appears to be on a track of self-destruction. And however much John McCain tries to separate himself from all of that, and with good reason, because when he was in the Senate, he was the guy who put together 14 other senators and tried to find the center in the Senate. But to get the nomination, he had to be a Republican and he had to run as a Republican. So it is complicated and one way or the other I think this will be a historic passage.
Earlier in the program, Brokaw suggested McCain sort of put his authentically centrist self at home to win the GOP nomination: "I think -- this is speculation on my part, and he may not welcome it, but I think that part of it, he had to make a bit of a deal to get the nomination that was -- ran a little counter to his truest beliefs as a Republican."
UPDATE: Error fixed. Original blog post said the Rose show was Friday, but it was Thursday, October 30.