Saturday, 5 December 2009

"The Audacity to Win": When Obama Almost Dropped Out

After what felt like a ver frustrating delay (why could Amazon get the last Harry Potter to me by 8AM on release day, but I had to wait two days for this? Isn't David Plouffe at least as culturally significant as the Boy Wizard?) I finally received the book and have been combing through it with great interest.

I'm not going to do a formal book review or anything - but in general The Audacity to Win is clearly written and inciteful. There are some surprises and a lot more detail about campaign moments that many of us followed obsessively but never knew the whole story. But then, I'm a bona fide Plouffe groupie, so perhaps my review is about as unbiased as a 14 year old girls thoughts on Twilight.

To the extent that the book has a weakness so far, I have to say I'm slightly irritated by the extremely long perfectly constructed paragraphs of clean text that are quotes verbatim - surely no one really sounds like this in actual conversations, and even if they did I doubt that Plouffe would have been recording or note-taking in enough detail to capture the wording years later.

But still, I'm sure what he's reporting is a fairly accurate rendering of the content of conversations even where I have doubts about the word choice.

And there is an especially striking conversation that Plouffe reports between himself and Barack in Spring of 2007.

At this point, Barack has launched his campaign successfully and has made a very strong showing in the early fundraising. But the pressures of a national campaign are wearing on him, and he is, frankly, not campaigning well. He's bored, tired and grouchy. In April, Spokesman Robert Gibbs decides to have a heart to heart with Obama on the campaign plane.
"Are you having any fun at all?" he asked him.
"None," Obama flatly replied.
"Do you see any way we can make it more fun?" Gibbs replied.
Reggie Love, who was listening in on the conversation piped up, "Well if it's any consolation, I'm having the time of my life."
Realising that they had a seriously grouchy candidate on their hands, and one who was underperforming on the stump, Plouffe and David Axelrod decided to sit him down for a serious talk. Plouffe tells him,

"Maybe you shouldn't have run... But you did, and the one thing that won't happen is that you'll quit. So let's at least give it a go, try to enjoy ourselves. Worse case, in eight or nine months we'll be out and have nothing but time on our hands. This is hard enough firing on all cylinders -- it's unbearable if your heart is not one hundred percent in it."

He thought about it for a moment. "I guess it's like being in the middle of the ocean. It's the same distance to swim back as to keep heading across. Just tell me this is going to get more fun."
Well, I think it did get more fun. But it's chilling to hear him talk about things in those terms - what if he'd been a few yards closer to the near shore?

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