Former two-term Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm would quite possibly have been on the list for future Presidential candidates — had she been born in the U.S. Instead the Canadian-born Democrat is going on TV. Starting tonight at 9/8c on Current TV, she will host The War Room With Jennifer Granholm, a live political show based in San Francisco. Her first guests: consumer advocate and Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. TV Guide Magazine caught up with Granholm to find out what battles The War Room will pick.
TV Guide Magazine: You've said about The War Room that basically liberals will love it, the right wing will hate it and moderates will appreciate it. Why?
Jennifer Granholm: We are making no bones about that I am coming from a Democratic/progressive point of view. But I don't want a yell fest. I'd love to have thoughtful Republicans come on so we can have a conversation about what is the role of government in job creation in America in a global economy. Is there a model out there that we should be looking to? I'd love to have that conversation with Republicans and Democrats.
TV Guide Magazine: There are a lot of political shows already out there, what need will you fill?
Granholm: None of the prime-time shows have a host who's been a Governor and Attorney General. I bring an inside view. This is a show for political junkies who want to know what the conversations are in war rooms across the country.
TV Guide Magazine: Why Current TV?
Granholm: I wasn't thinking of doing this at all. I was teaching at Berkley, and doing a variety of other things. Al Gore called and said, "We're building our prime-time lineup and we want to add a show. You watch this stuff all the time. You're a total political junkie. This is only a year and you'll be following the campaigns really closely. It will be fun."
TV Guide Magazine: You follow the passionate Cenk Uygur and the unpredictable Keith Olbermann on Current TV. Is that a little dangerous?
Granholm: Keith's on a different coast! [Laughs] I love their shows, but they are deliberately outsiders with righteous indignation: "We're going to punch this Congress in the mouth!" I come from a different place. I admire Fareed Zakaria's CNN show GPS, because it's thoughtful and doesn't talk down to people. I really want to have conversations that take it deeper.
TV Guide Magazine: Who is the show aimed at? And what can we expect?
Granholm: Current has a very techie younger audience. I want those viewers but to have a larger footprint, [to] reach more women for instance. The set will be a campaign office war room. We'll have the posters and campaign buttons, everything but the pizza boxes. We'll follow 12 races we think should be watched. In the first weeks of the show, we'll go to Chicago and see what the war room of the Obama campaign is like. And because we're in San Francisco we'll tap into some of the influential people from Silicon Valley. [Regular segments include "What's Working," "State of our States," and a comedic look at political news from producer/writer Brett Ehrlich.]
TV Guide Magazine: Now that you're a TV journalist, what's your opinion of the Citizen's United Supreme Court ruling that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money on political ads?
Granholm: This year will show that this has completely poisoned our political system. It's all about the unlimited selling of candidates. Both sides are feeling that there's something wrong about this. The Tea Party is just as mad about the influence of money politics as the Occupy movement.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you think the endless rounds of GOP candidates' debates are good for the electorate?
Granholm: It's great entertainment: political gladiators. It's fantastic that so many people are interested in watching the debates. You get people on Twitter chatting as its happening. It's so interactive. I love that! If you didn't have as many debates, you'd have less educated voters. People want to see how the candidates react under fire. That's important for a President.
TV Guide Magazine: Assuming that Mitt Romney gets the nomination, how will he do in debates against Barack Obama?
Granholm: It will be interesting, won't it? Unfortunately, they have so few of these debates. I actually prepared Vice President Biden for his debate in the last election. I played Sarah Palin. It's a little tough debating a woman.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you think there was some truth about Michelle Bachmann's claim about sexist condescension, despite what you may think of her politics?
Granholm: Yes, I totally agree. She was getting better and better at debates. You've got to give her points. She has a titanium spine.
TV Guide Magazine: If you were asked, how would you advise President Obama to do to get his message across in this tough economy.
Granholm: I can draw upon my experience. When I ran for re-election, the wrong-track numbers were exactly the same as the country's wrong-track numbers are now. Michigan had the country's highest unemployment. I ran against an heir to the Amway fortune who said he could turn the state around because of his business experience, which would parallel the current situation. But Amway, under his leadership had shut down a plant in Michigan and opened one up in China. And so when we talk about somebody who aids and abets the very problems that the leadership is trying to solve, those are fightin' words. Obama's got to demonstrate that he's on America's side and the other guy created the problems that are causing the economic difficulties in America. He's not the solution, he's the problem. I don't know if any of Romney's companies ended up outsourced, but most private equity does. The question is what will Mitt Romney do as president if his policy is simply to be hands off and let the government be made so small it can be drowned in a bathtub. In the 21st century global economy, no state alone has the ability to compete against China.
TV Guide magazine: You've done a ton of guest appearances on news shows like Meet the Press. Will you still be called up on to do that?
Granholm: My show won't be very much of a threat. They've said they still very much want to have me on.
TV Guide Magazine: In exciting times like these, are you sorry you were born in Canada?
Granholm: For the purpose of running for President? I'm kind of relieved actually. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Did you really appear on The Dating Game? You know a serial killer was one of the bachelors on that.
Granholm: Really? I know that Arnold Schwarzenegger did but not a serial killer. I was 18, did it on a whim and didn't even go on my date.