August 1, 2008

Kaine Fine-Tunes VP Talk: His Messages Shift a Bit in Local, National Interviews

By Jeff E. Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Aug. 1--To the home-state crowd, he's coy about the vice presidency. But to a national audience, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is showing a little leg.

On his monthly phone-in show yesterday on radio station WRVA (1140 AM) and the Virginia News Network, Kaine ducked a caller's question on whether he's qualified to be vice president.

However, during a television interview with PBS' Charlie Rose that aired locally at midnight Wednesday, Kaine staked out positions on issues on which he has been largely silent, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The appearances spotlighted Kaine's dance as a prospective running mate for Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee in-waiting. Kaine is interested, but he apparently doesn't want to be seen as covetous.

Swept up in the speculative spiral, WRVA renamed the hourlong Kaine broadcast. Rather than the customary "Ask the Governor," it was dubbed "Ask the Possible Future Vice President."

Listeners and host Jimmy Barrett quizzed Kaine on such topics as funding solutions for transportation, drilling for oil and gas off the Virginia coast and the state board that oversees tow-truck operators.

A caller who identified himself as Michael from King William asked Kaine whether he has the resume for the second-highest office in the land.

"I'm not going to make a case for myself for vice president," said Kaine, who reportedly is on Obama's short list with Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.

Kaine continued, "I'm an economy and education guy -- that's what governors do."

Kaine said he did not know Obama's timetable for announcing his running mate. He also said he is not currently scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention in Denver, from which his monthly radio broadcast will originate later this month.

Kaine emphasized the administrative side of the job to which he was elected less than three years ago after stints in part-time offices: lieutenant governor, Richmond mayor, City Council.

"Sixty to 70 percent of what I do is being an executive," he said. "You have to run things."

Kaine's radio appearance was announced in advance and was listed on his official schedule. His office did not alert reporters to the one-hour question-and-answer session with Rose.

Kaine, an early backer of Obama, described the Illinois senator as a "true unifier." Kaine criticized the Bush presidency as an "administration [that] has leaned too much on the force side; my way or the highway."

On foreign policy, Kaine said, "I don't see any major differences between me and Barack Obama in the picture he has, and the place of America in the world." Kaine described himself as a proponent of "deep, deep diplomacy."

Kaine said he supported the war in Afghanistan because the United States is in league with other nations. As for the invasion of Iraq, Kaine said, "The rationale presented by the administration were very, very flimsy."

Referring to the national backlog of transportation construction and maintenance projects, Kaine complained that the U.S. has a "more coherent policy to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure."

After the radio show yesterday, Kaine visited Richmond's Southside Child Development Center, where summer-camp amusement trumped the gravity of his career potential.

Tots in swimsuits played in water and answered their teacher's question about who was running for president with a resounding "Barack Obama."

They had a harder time answering the teacher's prompt for the name of Virginia's governor. One little girl acknowledged Kaine by slapping water at him and splashing his tie and shoes. Contact Jeff E. Schapiro at (804) 649-6814 or [email protected]

Staff writer Olympia Meola contributed to this report.


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