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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.

Barack Obama

Beto O'Rourke

David Axelrod

Donald Trump

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Michelle Obama

Nancy Pelosi

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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: 601937

Reported Deaths: 9593
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion831111322
Lake44972678
Allen32498545
Hamilton29039315
St. Joseph27133380
Elkhart24291343
Vanderburgh19160246
Tippecanoe17799130
Johnson14871292
Porter14631167
Hendricks14188247
Madison10851219
Vigo10636178
Clark10520137
Monroe9299110
Delaware9055134
LaPorte8972160
Howard8134142
Kosciusko800382
Warrick665197
Hancock6575103
Bartholomew637999
Floyd6322109
Wayne6076161
Grant5937113
Dubois552578
Boone544967
Morgan530594
Henry503464
Marshall499884
Cass478663
Dearborn470745
Noble468357
Jackson420747
Shelby410781
Lawrence387478
Clinton370642
Gibson365559
DeKalb344264
Montgomery340754
Harrison340544
Knox333139
Miami317344
Steuben311545
Whitley301725
Wabash299747
Adams299035
Ripley296545
Putnam292049
Huntington288659
Jasper287634
White270340
Daviess266073
Jefferson257938
Fayette245148
Decatur244883
Greene238162
Posey236927
Wells233350
LaGrange226361
Scott221838
Clay220932
Randolph212148
Jennings195836
Sullivan190833
Spencer188019
Fountain182127
Washington182022
Starke174443
Jay166322
Owen162837
Fulton162330
Orange156333
Carroll155415
Rush153318
Perry151227
Vermillion147334
Franklin146933
Tipton130932
Parke13018
Pike115626
Blackford110522
Pulaski96137
Newton90521
Brown86833
Benton85910
Crawford7839
Martin72313
Warren6757
Switzerland6455
Union6227
Ohio4787
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 849704

Reported Deaths: 10518
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100046706
Cuyahoga845231068
Hamilton63092447
Montgomery42660405
Summit34405754
Lucas31041611
Butler30546229
Stark25443429
Warren19436140
Lorain18767223
Mahoning17163337
Lake15882153
Clermont15697110
Delaware1422678
Licking13067137
Trumbull12680313
Fairfield1262180
Greene11915136
Medina11439167
Clark10802265
Wood10230158
Allen9774126
Portage9163107
Miami907373
Richland9035117
Marion7420113
Tuscarawas7280179
Columbiana7263124
Pickaway719550
Wayne6954169
Muskingum690741
Erie6090127
Hancock547590
Ross543487
Scioto533664
Geauga501155
Darke465591
Ashtabula449373
Lawrence447053
Union444928
Sandusky433062
Mercer432088
Huron423541
Seneca423465
Auglaize419662
Shelby419421
Jefferson415469
Belmont411240
Washington383340
Athens37379
Putnam372674
Madison349929
Knox347922
Ashland342538
Fulton335243
Defiance327782
Crawford319472
Preble318437
Brown307121
Logan304132
Ottawa289243
Clinton286643
Williams275866
Highland271818
Jackson261345
Guernsey249825
Champaign249328
Fayette234429
Morrow23014
Perry228318
Holmes222864
Henry216849
Hardin210133
Coshocton203521
Van Wert200545
Gallia194726
Wyandot193851
Pike172417
Adams172015
Hocking169824
Carroll153216
Paulding143221
Noble119940
Meigs106823
Monroe100331
Harrison87821
Morgan82229
Vinton68913
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