SHOW: CANADA AM 8:08:00 ET, CTV Television, Inc. June 17, 2008
ANCHORS: SEAMUS O’REGAN
GUESTS: GIL TROY, AUTHOR, “LEADING FROM THE CENTER”
O’REGAN: Al Gore says he’s backing Senator Barack Obama for President. The former US Vice President joined Obama
at a Detroit rally last night. As the candidates get into full campaign mode, Americans appear to be equally divided on which candidate they agree with.
For some insight, we are joined by Gil Troy. He is a presidential historian and author of “Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents”. He joins us this morning from Washington.
A lot of people in Canada would probably agree with you. I think that’s where we firmly occupy our politics, is in the centre, Gil. Good to have you.
TROY: Great to be with you.
O’REGAN: Let’s first of all talk about the premise of your book, which is — and I’m going to make a quote here — “The middle has long been a very appealing and very American place to be and must remain so. The great American center has a long, proud history, of offering a muscular moderation, not a mushy middle.”
So, let’s start with this year’s campaign. Who is the centrist here? Is it Obama or is it McCain?
TROY: I think the race for the centre is on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have to approach the campaign, understanding that if they want to win they have to master this politics of the centre. The centre: what does that mean? It means that Barack Obama has to go to that lyricism of his 2004 Democratic national convention speech where he spoke not of a red America or a blue America, but a red-white-and-blue America.
And John McCain has to understand that the reason why he became so popular is because he was the most anti-Bush of the Republicans.
And if they play for the centre they’ll be a success.
O’REGAN: What do you make of Al Gore yesterday and Barack Obama?
TROY: What a surprise. The former Democratic Vice President and nominee embraces Barack Obama. A little late, I would think, from the Barack Obama campaign. They would’ve loved the endorsement before Barack Obama won.
But it’s a way of feeding the news cycle and bringing some excitement to the campaign.
O’REGAN: John McCain is coming to Ottawa this Friday to talk about free trade. And, you know, Obama obviously has questioned NAFTA. Which one do you think, I mean, of the two — let’s move away from the centre and let’s talk about Canada. Which one of the two do you think would be better for Canada, particularly with free trade, you’ve got Afghanistan, borders, other issues?
TROY: I think there are two ways of approaching that question. First, to be honest, and this just isn’t a truism, the best candidate for America is going to be the best candidate for Canada. At this point, the United States has serious issues domestically and in terms of foreign policy. And the person who will be the most effective leader is what Canada needs, as America’s best friend.
On the other hand, I think Barack Obama stumbled during the Democratic primaries when he was playing that NAFTA game and one of his advisers said, “Oh, don’t worry, we’re not really serious about it.”
So, I think Canadians, justifiably, are going to be a little bit wary about Barack Obama. And the whole demagogic way that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ran the free-trade debate was a little bit disconcerting. So, McCain looks like he might be the stronger friend of Canada. So we have to see.
O’REGAN: This talk about the wives, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama. Is this a factor at all during the course of the campaign? Does it matter?
TROY: The role of the wife is to follow a kind of political Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. And Michelle Obama failed that test a little bit at the beginning when she made a comment saying “It’s the first time I’ve been proud of America.”
And one of the things that I’ve discovered in this book about moderation is that the most important thing is to be an American nationalist. Americans love their country, as Canadians do. And a great centrist is a great nationalist. And Michelle Obama undermined that.
O’REGAN: Let’s talk about John F. Kennedy. You devote a chapter to JFK. Tell me, in your mind, how he led from the centre, particularly during the Cuban missile crisis and civil rights.
TROY: John Kennedy is a good example of someone who grew in office and who learned how to be what I call a muscular moderate. When he first came to office he was a little bit callow, he was a little bit unsure of himself. But during the Cuban missile crisis he showed that he was able to ignore the generals who wanted to bomb Cuba and immediately start what could have been World War III, but to take a more cautious path without being weak. He called for a naval quarantine, a blockade, rather than going to war and rather than retreating.
Similarly, during civil rights he discovered and he showed that we need change sometimes in a country, we need a president who can listen to the American people, not be an extremist, not be a fanatic, but understand as in the 1960s that sometimes bold action is needed. And in his 1963 civil rights speech John Kennedy led the way. Unfortunately, the assassination cut him from being able to really mature as a great leader.
O’REGAN: Gil Troy, a very interesting book. Thank you so much for joining us.
TROY: Thanks. And let’s hope we can see some peace, order and good government in the United States as well. [laughter]
O’REGAN: There you go. Absolutely. Thank you.