Monday, November 10, 2008

the inner circle speaks

Posted by Christian  |  at  10.11.08

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Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe, David Axelrod and Anita Dunn, had a conversation with Steve Croft of 60 minutes, about how they managed such an extraordinary campaign. Though the video speaks for itself, what I find notable is (especially during the reverend Wright fiasco) whenever controversy arose, Obama kept his wits about him and in turn, the rest of the team followed in unison. That is a mark of a leader. For instance, how he handled the Wright situation, and told his team 'either people will listen, or I won't be president' and went on to deliver his "race speech", which by most measures was a success. Transcript below.

"There were just so many people, reporters, pundits, everybody, who said that, 'You're not gonna be able to elect a black man president of the United States. It's just not gonna happen right now.' Obviously, that had to be part of your equation in planning this campaign," Kroft remarked. "No, honestly you had to take a leap of faith in the beginning that the people we get by race. And I think the number of meetings we had about race was zero," Plouffe told Kroft. "Zero. We had to believe in the beginning that he would be a strong enough candidate that people of every background and race would be for him." "The only time we got involved in a discussion of race was when people asked us about it. It was a fascination of the news media," Axelrod added. “But you must have had some meetings on it during the Jeremiah Wright affair,” Kroft probed. Axelrod said the Jeremiah Wright affair was probably a pivotal moment in the whole campaign. "You know, pandemonium erupted in the political community. And there was this sense that we were in crisis." The video taped rantings of Obama's former pastor brought the issue that the Obama campaign had long sought to avoid center stage, and took them all by surprise. "And I think we'd all acknowledged that we should've been aware of some of these tapes were available. We didn't review all of the tapes of Jeremiah Wright as we should have," Axelrod said. "And as a result we were kind of caught flat-footed on some of these tapes. But you know we should have recognized that once that happened, that race is such a fascination of the political community that it would take off as it did. And it did." "That was a terrible weekend," Dunn remembered. "The excerpts were endlessly looped on television." “Yeah, and the only one who was calm was Obama,” Axelrod added. The candidate called his aides and told them he wanted them to clear some time on his schedule. "And he said, 'You know what? I'm gonna make a speech about race and talk about Jeremiah Wright and the perspective of the larger issue.' And he said, 'And either people will accept it or I won't be president of the United States. But at least I'll have said what I think needs to be said,'" Axelrod remembered.
Gibbs said there wasn't a discussion. "If there had been a discussion, we've often joked, probably most of the people in the campaign would've advised against it," Dunn added.


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