Friday, September 04, 2009

Holiday Weekend Book Review: "Renegade"

The 18 Best Tidbits from The Book

1. On election day when Bill Ayers showed up at the polling place at the same time Barack Obama was voting, campaign manager David Plouffe e-mailed, "What is this? The bar in Star Wars?"

2. On election night, just after the race was called and as Obama was about to take the stage in Chicago, he made his first executive decision: He killed the fireworks. "I don't think it's appropriate," he said.

3. Obama's marriage was rocky after his failed race for Congress in 2000. Wolff writes, "She was angry at his selfishness and careerism; he thought she was cold and ungrateful."

4. As he was deciding whether to run in '08 or wait, David Axelrod advised him, "My reading of history is that people rarely suffer for having run too soon."

5. The original gameplan: Place 2nd in Iowa, behind John Edwards but then win New Hampshire.

6. Obama's proudest moment of the campaign: Slogging through Nevada after the New Hampshire disappointment, and slightly edging Hillary Clinton in delegates. It's when Plouffe made clear the campaign wouldn't be about the popular vote, but delegates.

7. Obama wrote his entire speech on race himself, mostly late at night in hotel rooms. He finished 2 a.m. the day of the speech and e-mailed it to Axelrod. "This is why you should be president," Axelrod e-mailed his boss. He knew of no other candidate who could have written such a complex and subtle speech under such pressure.

8. In mid-December, a month before Iowa, Obama confronted Hillary directly at the airport in Des Moines over tensions between their campaigns. Clinton grew agitated and waved her hand, poking her finger at him. Obama placed his hand on her arm, she recoiled. After he walked away he later told his aides, "I never saw that look of concern in her eyes before. I think we can win this one."

9. Obama won the endorsement of John Kerry before the Iowa caucuses. But the campaign decided rolling out Kerry before Iowa would hurt their outsider message. "We're not the D.C. people. We've got this far without them. Let's close it," said Mitch Stewart, the Iowa caucus director.

10. That hubbub over the State of the Union snub, when Obama reportedly failed to shake Clinton's hand? Obama turned away from Clinton, but said he had only turned away to answer a question from his other seatmate, Sen. Claire McCaskill.

11. After the primary, Clinton said she'd only submit to vetting if she was assured the vice presidency. That was a signal to Obama's aides that Clinton wanted to disqualify herself.

12. Obama's Vice Presidential short list boiled down to Senators Joe Biden and Evan Bayh and Governors Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sebelius. The view inside the inner circle is that he was always leaning towards Biden.

13. The day after the convention when John McCain unveiled Sarah Palin as his running mate, Obama adviser Pete Rouse said, "This is not going to wear well. It is a stunt."

14. Plouffe estimates Palin's nomination was worth about $20 to $25 million dollars in fundraising for Obama.

15. Two stylistic problems that Obama aides worked to correct during debate prep: 1) When Obama wanted to look serious, his facial expression could appear angry 2) He often cocked his head to listen to his rivals, which left him looking snootily. He corrected both before debating McCain.

16. Obama's team didn't mind the "socialist" line of attack against their candidate. They had polled the term down to "its underwear. "It's excessive," said Plouffe. "They say, 'I might no agree with him on taxes, but I don't think anybody running for president is a socialist.'

17. In the immediate weeks of the Obama administration, there was tension between Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel was "unsettled" by her personal relationship with the Obamas and wanted her outside the White House, preferably in the Senate. But the president wanted her close.

18. Several top Senate Democrats encouraged Obama to pick Clinton as his Secretary of State. They wanted her out of the Senate. Some thought Clinton carried on her campaign too long, drained Democratic resources and they were unwilling to offer her a position ahead of her lowly rank as a junior New York Senator.

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