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Obama praises 'extraordinary' Pelosi amid leadership battle

Former President Barack Obama offered effusive praise of Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday as the Democratic leader fa...

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 4:54 AM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 4:54 AM

Former President Barack Obama offered effusive praise of Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday as the Democratic leader faces opposition to her bid for House Speaker.

"I think Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country's ever seen," Obama said at a live taping of "The Axe Files" podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.

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"The Axe Files" is hosted by David Axelrod, Obama's former top strategist and a CNN political commentator.

The interview comes as both Barack and Michelle Obama return to the public spotlight after spending most of the first year and a half of Donald Trump's presidency off the stage. Michelle Obama is touring to promote her book, while Barack Obama spent the weeks before the midterm elections campaigning for Democratic candidates.

Obama's praise of Pelosi comes as a group of House Democrats who are seeking generational change in the party's top ranks argue Pelosi has become a political anchor around its candidates.

Obama said he didn't want to weigh in on the leadership fight but called Pelosi an "extraordinary partner" before complimenting her abilities as a legislator.

"Nancy is not always the best on a cable show or with a quick soundbite or what have you," Obama said. "But her skill, tenacity, toughness, vision, is remarkable. Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done, I think, stands up against any person that I've observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime."

Obama said instead of "performance art," what's most important are the "nuts and bolts" of governance -- "the blocking and tackling involved in actually getting things across the finish line."

"And my experience has been that Nancy Pelosi knows how to do that, and she was an extraordinary partner for me throughout my presidency," Obama said.

Obama also said in the interview that he and Trump have "contrasting visions" about the United States.

"I think what's unique about America is our aspirations to be a large, successful, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic democracy," he said.

"Do you think that's President Trump's vision?" Axelrod asked.

"No, obviously not," Obama said. "We have contrasting visions about what America is. And, you know, that's self-apparent. But what I would say is that the majority of Americans believe in that story. And there is power in that story."

Obama talks guns, filibusters

In the interview, Obama also detailed his frustrations with the hurdles he faced on Capitol Hill, saying he favors abolishing the Senate's 60-vote threshold to break the filibuster and advance legislation and lambasting Republicans for failing to back new gun laws.

Obama's comments came a day after a shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago in which three people and the gunman were killed.

He said the hardest day of his presidency was the Sandy Hook shooting.

"The angriest I was ever during my presidency was seeing Congress not doing anything about it. Completely unresponsive," Obama said.

He complained that mass shootings in the United States are followed by "this Kabuki dance of, 'We're offering thoughts and prayers,'" and then no action.

"The NRA and the entirety, just about, of the Republican Party, and some Democrats ... would just shut off any discussion of dealing with this public health crisis that does not exist anywhere else," he said.

Obama also said the Senate should abolish the filibuster, a move that would mean legislation requires just a simple majority of votes to pass.

He said his agenda was repeatedly stymied by Republicans because of the filibuster, and that he failed to turn Washington's gridlock into an issue that motivated voters.

"I'm the first to confess, you know, I was not able to give this message effectively," Obama said.

"It's just not the stuff that moved people to vote, and the other side didn't get punished for it," Obama said. "We couldn't focus enough attention on the fact that the basic norms of governance that took place for prior presidents suddenly didn't hold for us."

Obama praises Beto O'Rourke's Texas Senate run

Obama, when asked about Beto O'Rourke, praised the Democratic congressman who shattered online fundraising records and visited all 254 of counties in Texas on the way to a closer-than-expected loss to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

He called O'Rourke an "impressive young man who ran a terrific race in Texas."

"What I liked most about his race was that it didn't feel constantly poll-tested," Obama said. "It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed. And that, you'd like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly it's not."

He also compared O'Rourke to himself.

"The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizeable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant," Obama said. "And that's a quality that, as I look at what I'm sure will be a strong field of candidates in 2020, many of whom are friends of mine and whom I deeply respect -- what I oftentimes am looking for first and foremost is, do you seem to mean it? Are you in this thing cause you have a strong set of convictions that you are willing to risk things for?"

When Axelrod pressed Obama on whether O'Rourke struck him as someone who fit that description, Obama said, "Yes, and I think there are others. We've got a number of people who are thinking about the race who I think fall in that same category."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 710607

Reported Deaths: 13248
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion968581722
Lake51908949
Allen39337672
Hamilton34643406
St. Joseph34306543
Elkhart27477432
Vanderburgh22099394
Tippecanoe21927213
Porter17987301
Johnson17571374
Hendricks16854310
Clark12715190
Madison12367337
Vigo12240244
Monroe11510166
LaPorte11204204
Delaware10382184
Howard9698211
Kosciusko9165114
Hancock8014139
Bartholomew7913155
Warrick7702155
Floyd7568176
Wayne6917198
Grant6855171
Boone6568100
Morgan6414138
Dubois6091117
Marshall5801109
Dearborn571276
Cass5698104
Henry5588101
Noble543683
Jackson494172
Shelby481395
Lawrence4349118
Gibson429589
Harrison429171
Clinton420953
Montgomery418986
DeKalb413284
Whitley382239
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Miami373365
Knox367189
Steuben367157
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Jefferson318080
White308854
Daviess289999
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Greene271085
Posey269533
Scott261553
Clay255445
LaGrange255470
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Washington231631
Spencer228131
Jennings225448
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Sullivan208042
Starke206252
Owen192756
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181436
Orange178353
Rush170824
Vermillion166343
Franklin166035
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Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130734
Pulaski114345
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97413
Martin83115
Warren80215
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1058395

Reported Deaths: 19033
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1229981360
Cuyahoga1080042072
Hamilton785031170
Montgomery50326998
Summit45710915
Lucas40568768
Butler37858572
Stark31586896
Lorain24333473
Warren23964293
Mahoning21029584
Lake20143365
Clermont19480229
Delaware18162130
Licking16185207
Fairfield15796197
Trumbull15666461
Medina14961259
Greene14765236
Clark13697293
Wood12828185
Portage12481196
Allen11374229
Richland11102198
Miami10568214
Muskingum8729127
Wayne8619209
Columbiana8589226
Pickaway8454121
Marion8409135
Tuscarawas8393240
Erie7644154
Hancock6746124
Ross6727146
Ashtabula6563166
Geauga6563146
Scioto6314101
Belmont5657159
Union560247
Lawrence5483102
Jefferson5372149
Huron5333114
Darke5285121
Sandusky5208120
Seneca5163120
Washington5095108
Athens509256
Auglaize477683
Mercer473785
Shelby458092
Knox4418108
Madison426559
Putnam423199
Ashland414488
Fulton411667
Defiance405596
Crawford3894102
Brown387755
Logan375176
Preble372498
Clinton364060
Ottawa359578
Highland348460
Williams330074
Champaign322357
Jackson309351
Guernsey308749
Perry290949
Fayette278448
Morrow277239
Hardin265964
Henry265066
Coshocton261058
Holmes255199
Van Wert239863
Pike234231
Gallia233346
Adams230252
Wyandot228354
Hocking210759
Carroll189747
Paulding169239
Meigs141738
Noble133037
Monroe129041
Morgan107723
Harrison105936
Vinton81614
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