Maybe Obama Was Just Dodging the Question

Barack Obama’s response to one of Tom Brokaw’s six attempts to engage him on his running-mate search on yesterday’s Meet the Press, which I wrote about last night, is getting some attention today.

Asked by Brokaw whether geography will dictate his selection, Obama said:

"I’m going to want somebody with integrity. I’m going to want somebody with independence, who’s willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I’m wrong. And I’m going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country where we need to go, that we’ve got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how our politics works, how business is done in Washington."

The New York Sun says that this formulation rules out Hillary Clinton, given her close association with the Washington establishment, and NBC’s First Read suggests that Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and Jack Reed could be eliminated for the same reason.

"Frankly," First Read wrote, "it’s tough naming any Washington player using that standard."

OK, but here’s another possibility: Obama was just talking without really saying anything. Presidential candidates are trained to deflect any and all V.P. queries by ignoring direct questions (in this case, about geography) and falling back on a few harmless, familiar and vague themes in order to run out the clock. I’d say that was all Obama was doing here.

Clinton is unlikely, but for a whole different set of reasons. And it’s hard to write off the other D.C. players on the basis of Obama’s comment yesterday.

After all, just remember Bill Clinton, who ran as the change candidate from outside Washington in 1992 ("We have got to go beyond the brain-dead politics in Washington and give our people the kind of government they deserve," he said) but ended up narrowing his running-mate search to four members of Congress, ultimately choosing then-Senator Al Gore.