Vilsack previews Tonight Show appearance

At 8:35 p.m. Iowa time — just after The Tonight Show taping concluded — former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack held a telephone news conference to discuss his appearance on the show that airs this evening.

"I had an interesting opportunity to be on The Tonight Show tonight.  The show actually starts with a skit that Jay and I did, so the actual beginning of The Tonight Show involves Jay Leno and a fellow who was dressed up as a security guard doing a little skit which I think people will find pretty funny and after that, Jay interviewed Jim Carrey for a while and then I was asked to come on after Jim Carrey," Vilsack said at the beginning of the call.

"Interesting thing," Vilsack continued.  "Jim Carrey had just gotten back from Israel so we had a wonderful opportunity to talk a little bit about that and, you know, Jay was interested in my background, my personal background, a little bit about the circumstances of my birth.  He was interested in how I got involved in politics.  He was interested in how someone in my situation competes with folks who are better known and we talked a little bit about that and how it’s important to focus on issues.  Talked a little bit, very briefly, about issues involving the war in Iraq and our campaign is basically suggesting it’s time to end that war now, not some time in the future and we’re the only campaign that’s basically calling for that and calling for congress to have the moral authority and the moral belief in ending the war and we also talked briefly about the energy security speech I gave at the Commonwealth Club two days ago and the importance of cutting greenhouse gases and also cutting our dependence on foreign oil."

"So it was a real interesting time. I had a chance to visit with Mr. Leno before. We had a wonderful conversation about the car that he was driving.  He has a number of cars.  He’s a car buff and the car that he was driving today to work is a car that was built actualy in the 1930s by an individual who complained to his father than he wanted a car and his father said ‘Well if you want a car go build yourself one’ and this individual actually decided to do that. With spare parts, he built the car and operated it, obviously, for an extended period of time and as he got older and was prepared to go into the nursing home he called Jay Leno and said he’d be willing to give Jay the car if Jay would be willing to agree never to sell it and to basically restore it, which Jay did.  It’s a car that kind of looks like an airplane.  It’s kind of a bizarre looking thing and Jay also talked about an electric car that he drives to work periodically that was sort of the discussion we had about ethanol and renewable fuel."

"So it was good and Jim Carrey’s a delightful guy.  He’s got a new movie coming out and we talked a little bit about that," Vilsack said.  "That’s pretty much it."

Vilsack then answered questions.  The first questioner asked Vilsack to describe the audience.

"I didn’t have a chance to talk to the audience before the show but after the show had a chance to mix and mingle with several folks.  There were people from IL, people from RI, people from CA.  There were individuals who make it a habit of going to The Tonight Show.  There was one lady who had been to 119 Tonight Shows.  Had several interesting conversations about the war.  I think there was a general, positive reaction to my comments about ending the war, ending it now.  Had several folks who were interested in energy security and the need to reduce our dependence and ultimately eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," Vilsack said.  "As was the case with The Daily Show, the audience looks — the way they use the cameras and so forth — it looks like there are quite a few people in that audience and they’re quite well (can’t hear word) with their applause, but the reality is there really aren’t, there are maybe a couple of hundred people in the studio."

O. Kay Henderson:  "Governor, your wife has the capacity to convince you to wear costumes.  Did The Tonight Show folks dress you up in any strange get-up for the opening?"

Vilsack laughed.  "No.  No, no.  No, no.  It was a typical suit and tie kind of thing.  There was no costume and no mention of costumes, thank God," he replied, laughing.

Tom Beaumont from The Des Moines Register:  "Did you decide against letting the show use the Winnie the Pooh photo?"

"You know, there wasn’t time, Tom.  It was a short segment.  They had us for eight minute segments and they were interested in doing a couple of things.  We didn’t get done everything they wanted to get done.  They did do, they had a question about look-alikes, so there’ll be an interesting comparison to somebody who some people say I look like on the show and then there was, they wanted to do people who have endorsed me.  We didn’t get around to that.  There just wasn’t enough time.  We were going to do an interesting kind of fun and games on some of the people who are supporting us that have names that are of famous people but aren’t themselves necessarily famous." 

(Anybody remember the Fallon for governor campaign ad.)

Henry Jackson of the AP:  "How does an event like this help with fundraising and name ID and iovercoming some of the obstacles from being a governor of a relatively small state?"

Vilsack"Well, I think any time you get an opportunity to be in front of a national audience, especially an opportunity to show yourself as a regular person with an interesting life story and a position on an issue that is the issue of the day, it’s gonna help.  You know, obviously, there’s a lot of work that we have to do in terms of name identification, but the beauty is we’ve got substantive policy issues that I think are going to get people’s attention and the web gives you an opportunity to expand your network very quickly as word gets out.  We’ve revamped our web page today.  We just launched it today, so I think it will help and the key is to continue to do this, so we’ve been aggressively promoting the policies that we’ve been pushing, especially our energy policy, on a number of the cable shows and our position on Iraq on a number of cable shows and that’s going to continue and we had a nice article in The New Republic and we’re just continuing to build.  The reality is this is a marathon and sometimes people have a tendency to treat it as a sprint.  It’s not.  It’s a marathon and you want to build your support and you want to peak at the right time.  You don’t want to be peaking too early in this process and a lot of people do do that."

There were no further questions and Vilsack rang off — headed to speak at a banquet in LA where local Democrats were gathering. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. I think the major upshot of this appearance was that, as the Des Moines Register is reporting, the Vilsack campaign folks turned down the NBC folks in their request to air this photo: