Q&A With Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart

Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart is not just any observer of the 2008 election campaign. He sees strong parallels between the contest pitting Democrats Barack Obama (who he supports) against Hillary Clinton and his own 1984 run for the White House. Back then, Walter Mondale, the former Vice President and clear favorite among the Democratic Party elite, held a delegate lead over the upstart Hart, but he didn’t have enough support to lock up the nomination in advance of that year’s convention. However, Mondale soon secured the support of the Dems’ superdelegates – a group of high-profile party officials with the power to champion the candidate of their choice. By doing so, he knocked out Hart, who many observers saw as having the better chance to defeat the sitting president, Ronald Reagan.

Hart weighs in on this subject and much more during the following Q&A. The conversation begins by touching upon topics at the center of his latest book, Under the Eagle’s Wing: A National Security Strategy of the United States for 2009, which he’ll sign on Wednesday, March 26, during an appearance at the LoDo Tattered Cover. The discussion includes colorful reflections on the Bush administration’s disinterest in taking advice from outsiders, as well as his Eagle’s Wing advocacy for a shift in American foreign policy that would find the U.S. building coalitions rather than going it alone. (In many ways, the book makes the case for Hart as a cabinet official in a possible Obama administration.) He then talks about the timing of his Obama endorsement – it turns on Clinton’s use of the vintage catch-phrase “Where’s the beef?,” which Mondale used against Hart back in the day – and traces the history of the superdelegate to the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, which took place more than a dozen years prior to the concept’s adoption. He also handicaps the upcoming primaries in Texas and Ohio, to be held on March 4, and suggests that, despite its faults, the Democratic Party’s nominating system is more, well, democratic than the one used by Republicans.

Once a party man, always a party man:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts