Today I attended a National Press Club lunch meeting with Virginia Governor Mark Warner. My host was veteran political strategist Jeff Trammell, who thought it would be a good idea for me to kick the tires of this presidential aspirant.
Warner’s speech was not substantively poor, but it wasn’t memorable. He focused on the role that state governors must play in helping to shape the future role and structure of state National Guard operations in the balance between state needs on one hand and national security priorities on the other. He did make some very solid points.
But I was watching to see if I saw a future president there. Warner, on paper, is a pretty good contender for the White House, but in person, he has a lot to do yet — and seems more primed to fill out a ticket as a vice presidential pick than getting the top perch. He could turn out to be more of a “Jimmy Stewart” who is clean cut and blandly purposeful with great moments of flair and inspiration — but right now he’s much more of a “Jeremy Irons” type — and that’s not good.
For me the fun part of the lunch was when Business Week White House Correspondent and National Press Club President Rick Dunham said that the question that had popped up among the ones submitted for the Governor — “as much as Angelina Jolie being asked what she thought about John Bolton” — was whether Mark Warner was, in fact, running for President in 2008.
Obviously, he is. But the Jolie-Bolton news was new to me. I asked Rick Dunham about her response, and he paraphrased saying something along the lines that she thought Bolton really needed to figure out how to become more diplomatic. Dunham apparently the next day asked Sam Nunn the same question on Bolton. Nunn’s response was that “It took Nixon to go to China, but for Bolton to go to the U.N., he’s gonna have to become a diplomat.”
These little quips are silly ones — and don’t change the state of play — but they were amusing in a rather lackluster lunch.
The one really bold and interesting thing that Mark Warner has done though is that Jeff Trammell, as of July 1st, is the first openly gay Member of the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary. This is pretty huge news, and Trammell was appointed by Governor Warner.
I will be writing more about this soon — but wanted to note it today as there seems not to have yet been an official release about Jeff Trammell’s appointment. It says something about Mark Warner that he would make such a sensible appointment in a state that is nonsensical on gay issues.
So, I’m still watching Warner — and am hopeful.
— Steve Clemons