Good luck, Mr. President.
I’ve been thinking about the last question I got about Speaker John Boehner saying that he isn’t going to negotiate with President Obama anymore and about how generally terrible Congress is and I came to a thought.
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President. The Speaker controls the flow of legislation in the House and is easily the most influential member of the Legislative branch — probably the third or fourth most powerful person in the country. The Speaker is an enormously important component to the political process in the United Sates.
It requires a simple majority of the votes of 435 people, many of whom are casting ballots on the first day of their new job in Congress, to elect the Speaker of the House. The voting is almost always done along strict party lines. John Boehner will probably be Speaker until January 3, 2015. It only took 200 people to decide that. Although the Speaker of the House is a tremendously powerful person who influences the lives of every American in many ways, John Boehner is really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of Ohio. Nancy Pelosi was really only accountable to the 8th Congressional District of California.
Understanding all of this, shouldn’t we choose the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in a national election? Shouldn’t candidates for the Speaker have to face all of the voters of our country? Shouldn’t all Americans help make that decision?
Alright, kids, let’s see if this Smart-Ass Commentary works for a debate. It worked well during President Obama’s State of the Union Address and during the Republican and Democratic Conventions, but I can’t promise that this experiment won’t be a total trainwreck.
It’s the second of three Presidential debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This is a town hall format from Hofstra University, alma mater of my favorite publicist in the whole wide world, Joe Villa of the WWE (that’s one WWE reference and I think you should take a shot every time I make one). Candy Crowley of CNN is moderating.
President Obama needs a good showing tonight because Governor Romney kicked the ever-loving shit out of him in the first debate. I thought Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential debate, but it was close and Paul Ryan came across well, in my opinion. This is really, truly, genuinely, seriously, authentically, legitimately, hugely important for Obama.
And here we go…it’s clobberin’ time (take a shot).
•After moderating this debate, Candy Crowley will be heading back to the North Pole so she can get ready to deliver everyone’s toys.
•They switched things up — Mitt with the blue tie tonight and Barack with the red one. How will that affect their performances???
•(It won’t. It’s just a fucking tie.)
•You know, if they really wanted to mix things up, instead of a third debate with one another, the candidates should have to speak at one of their opponent’s political rallies. That would be awesome to watch, especially if they did it randomly so the audience didn’t know ahead of time that they were getting Obama instead of Romney or vice versa.
•I wish we could hear what they say during their introductory handshake.
•Wouldn’t it be smart to talk trash at that time or try to throw the other guy off?
•Seriously, imagine how confused and off his game Obama would be if Romney ended the handshake by saying something like, “How about trying to keep it real this time, my nigga”. Obama would be stunned.
•Oh man, how am I going to keep this from being 40,000 words when I want to mock everyone who asks a question?
•At least that 20-year-old kid in his grandpa’s suit wasn’t nervous or anything. Ninety minutes of awkward people asking boring questions. This will be awesome. And by “awesome” I mean “stab me, please”.
•President Obama looks like he’s getting thinner, doesn’t he? He’s starting to look fragile.
•Romney seems like he’s feeling confident because of the last debate. He’s going to just start putting his arm around Candy Crowley and begin singing Pat Boone songs.
•Another nervous audience member. Dude was shaking like my head when the President begins another boring, uninspiring answer.
•These debates should be like that old pop-up video show on VH1 but with instant fact-checking from reliable sources.
•Obama: “That’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.”
Romney: “But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem.” — That is a killer line from Romney and Obama needs to combat that instantly, every single time, by mentioning the do-nothing, record-low-approval-rating, obstructionist Congress. Obama isn’t, so Romney is winning the message war.
•Romney is controlling this debate. He’s controlling the arguments. YOU ARE THE INCUMBENT, MR. PRESIDENT…TRY TO PRETEND YOU ARE IN CHARGE!
•I’m getting very frustrated. It’s like Obama doesn’t even care.
•Obama: “I’m used to being interrupted.” — ASSERT YOURSELF! LBJ wouldn’t have allowed that. Nixon wouldn’t have allowed that. Reagan and Clinton wouldn’t have allowed that. You are the President, assert yourself and take control.
•27 minutes in and Obama finally points out that Congress has hindered him.
•I hate to have to keep saying this, but if I’m going to be an honest observer, Romney is more focused. He explains what he wants to say better and with more confidence. He even seems more passionate and empathetic.
•Obama is a bit more aggressive right now, but he’s not connecting. I never thought I’d see the day where Mitt Romney would be connecting with people better than Barack Obama.
•Oh, well hello, Catherine Benton. I’m Anthony. Feel free to Facebook me if you want to talk about the issues, if you know what I mean…
•It would be hilarious if Romney talked about his respect for women or gender equality by saying, “The President had an influential grandmother in his life, and I looked up to my 57 grandmothers and loved each one equally, just like my grandfather did.”
•Now this is where Obama shines — the arguments about Planned Parenthood and health care choices for women. That’s where you get the passion that Romney has for job creation.
•Holy shit, an audience member with an interesting question! The lady who asked Romney about the differences between he and President Bush deserves a gold star.
•And Romney can’t run away from Bush quickly enough.
•Obama wants to kiss that lady on the mouth for letting him point out that Bush left him a steaming pile of dogshit when he left the White House.
•Smooth move by Obama to contrast Bush and Romney with examples that actually made Bush look MORE reasonable. That was the best thing Obama has done in two debates so far.
•When the black dude in the audience said that he voted for Obama in 2008 and wanted to know why he should vote for him in 2012, do you think it would have been controversial if Obama just blurted out, “BECAUSE I’M BLACK!”? I think Drudge would have had a problem with that.
•It’s taken 90 minutes of the 1st debate and nearly 60 minutes of the 2nd debate, but President Obama seems to have finally realized that he should try to get himself reelected.
•I have to be honest with you guys; it’s difficult for me to be a smart-ass with these debates because they are just too important. I get wrapped up in being focused on what the candidates are actually saying and it’s hard for me to try to write something funny.
•Obama getting pissed off at Romney about the Libyan attack was a strong moment.
•Oh, hey, what’s up, mamacita?
•Goddamn, this is a long 90 minutes, isn’t it?
•If I was in a Presidential debate, I would make a completely ridiculous claim about my opponent just so he’d have to deny it. I’d say things like, “Governor Romney, is it or is it not true that you eat kitten paws for lunch every Thursday?” or “Mr. President, it’s been said that you exercise by open-hand slapping newborn babies in their little faces whenever you can’t get to a basketball court, correct?”
•The President is just rambling. I listened to every word he said and I couldn’t even tell you what he was talking about. No spirit, no passion.
•We’re getting close to the end, thankfully.
•It’s pretty wild to think that Romney would be the third-oldest President to ever be inaugurated if he’s elected. He looks younger than half of the Presidents inaugurated at a younger age than he will be on January 20th.
•Speaking of January 20th — Inauguration Day — that’s my birthday, so you might want to start shopping and getting your gifts for me. I’ll go ahead and wait if you need to write that down real quick……got it? Good.
•Solid final question to lead into a final statement.
•Romney once again showed some passion with his answer.
•In debates, I think Obama’s cadence when he speaks hurts him. It makes it seem as if he is stammering at times when it’s just how he speaks.
•Yay, it’s over.
Final thoughts: I think Romney won this debate, too. It wasn’t a massacre like the first debate and Obama had some strong points, particularly in the middle part of the debate. For me, though, it keeps coming back to passion. Romney seems like he wants it more, seems like he cares more. I know how important it is to Obama, but he’s just not connecting. He’s not connecting with ME. If Barack Obama isn’t connecting with ME, I think he’s in trouble. Mitt Romney is a better debater and, astonishingly, he might actually be a better public speaker. There was more aggression out of Obama tonight, but there were still too many moments where he let Romney run through him or where he looked to the moderator to save him.
One debate to go and 20 days to Election Day and I have no idea who is going to be our next President.
President Obama, at a fundraiser with Jay-Z and Beyonce at the 40/40 Club.
(And I thought I was cool because I went to an Obama fundraiser in 2007 at Ruby Skye in San Francisco that Tony! Toni! Toné! played at. Actually, you know what, that WAS cool.)
It’s time to wrap two weeks of political Conventions up and move this crazy and interminable campaign into its final stretch, the official general election cycle, with three Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debate on the horizon and Election Day just SIXTY DAYS away. If you haven’t already, check out Part I of Smart-Ass Commentary of the final night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, featuring John Kerry, and Part II, featuring the best speech that Joe Biden has ever given.
Eight years ago, I sat with my then-girlfriend in her apartment in Sacramento and watched “a skinny kid with a funny name” who was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois mesmerize the 2004 Democratic National Convention. When he finished speaking, I turned to my then-girlfriend and said, “That man is going to be President of the United States someday.” And she laughed out loud.
Five years ago, I went to work for that man’s fledgling Presidential campaign and was never surprised over the next 18 months as he overtook better-funded, better-known, and better-experienced candidates to climb in the polls, then win some primaries, and then eventually clinch the Democratic Presidential nomination. It was four years ago when I couldn’t hold back the emotion and cried as I watched Barack Obama accept that nomination in front of 85,000 supporters at a stadium in Denver. When he was actually elected in November 2008, I was ecstatic. When he was sworn in as President on my birthday in 2009, it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Now, it is 2012. Things are different. They aren’t as great as we had hoped for, and the change isn’t as clear as we expected. Yet, Barack Obama is still the candidate I supported from the beginning. He’s still the person I believe is the best choice. And, as he accepts the Democratic nomination for a second term as President, I will try to give my Smart-Ass Commentary, even though the Clinton and Biden speeches were more like my Totally-Biased Fanboy Commentary.
One interesting thing to look for: Barack Obama burst on the scene as an absolutely electric orator and when he is “on”, he is one of the best public speakers in the United States. However, he’s following a great speech on Wednesday by THE best public speaker in the United States, former President Bill Clinton, and a FANTASTIC speech tonight by Vice President Joe Biden. Can Obama surpass Clinton and Biden?
•In the interest of fairness and honesty, I ran out of steam about halfway through Vice President Biden’s speech, but I’ll do my best to say a few interesting things in Obama’s speech.
•Michelle Obama: “I’m so proud to introduce the love of my life. The father of our two girls…” — I’m very surprised that she ended that sentence by bringing out Joe Lieberman. I did not see that coming.
•Ew…the President’s entrance music stinks. He should have come out to Jay-Z’s “Hola Hovito”.
•I know it’s been four years, but Malia and Sasha have grown up so much since the last Convention. And Malia is as tall as the President and First Lady!
•If I were President Obama, the first thing I’d say would be, “Can Osama bin Laden please stand up? Osama? Is Osama bin Laden here? OH, THAT’S RIGHT…I ORDERED A DARING RAID DEEP INTO PAKISTAN THAT KILLED HIM. So, there’s that.”
•And then just nonchalantly shift into the regular speech.
•I would probably pay at least $10,000 just to stand in front of a packed political Convention and be able to say, “I accept your nomination for President of the United States”. That seems like it would be a fun moment.
•I think Obama used some Just For Men to touch up four years of Presidential gray hairs. I feel like he’s usually got a bit more gray.
•The President really glues himself to that teleprompter. I know it’s not a big deal and everyone uses one, but it does bother me because Obama rarely breaks away from it. Connect with the television audience, Mr. President!
•”Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.” — The President made a funny!
•Obama is hitting all of his talking points and doing what he needs to do, but after watching the natural delivery, passion, and empathy of Bill Clinton and Joe Biden the past two days, this particular speech isn’t in their league.
•It’s still astonishing to me that the President of the United States of America has to declare that “climate change is not a hoax.” A significant amount of our nation’s population is fucking retarded. And, when I say “retarded”, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect — I mean that they are as dumb as rocks and should have to wear helmets with flashing lights on them and that we should point and laugh at them and bully them incessantly.
•So, yeah, I totally did mean that in a politically incorrect way. Unfollow me.
•”Cold War mind warp” — I said Romney was stuck in 1980s foreign policy the other day. Copycat.
•Alright, enough with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro already! Has anybody ever become more overexposed in a shorter amount of time? He hit the national scene on Monday and I was tired of the guy by Wednesday. He’s like a commercial that played too often.
•Also, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something inexplicably creepy about Julian Castro. I don’t have specific answers, but it just feels like he’s smothered more than one elderly person and/or hotel housekeeper with a pillow.
•Julian Castro looks like the type of guy who cries uncontrollably every time he takes a shower and can’t color inside the lines with crayons even though he’s an adult.
•Obama should set up an empty chair, pretend its Clint Eastwood, and then just kick it over and say, “What’s up now, Million Dollar Baby?”
•Obama: “But we don’t think that government is the source of all of our problems anymore than welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.” — How funny would it have been if Obama followed that up with, “Although, black people in general do need to step it up”?
•Hahaha…the President said “doody”.
•Then again, maybe it was “duty”. That’s not as funny, but makes a lot more sense.
•Obama is going on and on about the things that we are responsible for and that we have been the force of change for and is spotlighting people that “we” have helped around the country (“You did that!”), but I feel like he crossed the line by blaming us for the Gabby Giffords shooting.
•Obama: “Times have changed and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President.” — If anything ever deserved to be punctuated with a “muthafucka”, it was that. Way to blow it, Barry.
•Obama: “I’ve never been more hopeful about America…I’m hopeful because of you.” — Man, the President does not get out of the White House to meet “average” Americans very often, does he?
•Grand finale time.
•The President got sufficiently emotional and passionate towards the end; he even got going with the whole black-preacher-on-the-pulpit cadence at the very end and that’s always a winner.
Alright, the Conventions are over! President Obama gave a good, solid speech. It was what it needed to be. Nothing really stood out, but it didn’t drag, either. I’m guessing he’ll get a little bigger bounce in the polls than Romney did from the Republican National Convention.
Overall, I’m a little surprised to say that Joe Biden gave the best speech I saw this week. I didn’t think President Clinton could be topped, and if he were, I thought it would be by President Obama, but it was the Vice President who pulled it off. Best speech of the week, followed closely by Clinton, and then Obama in third place.
Now we can give this bit a rest until the debates!
At the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in July 1988, then-Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas was asked to nominate Michael Dukakis for President and gave a rambling, Clint Eastwood-ish speech. To give you an idea of how badly-received that speech was, the arena full of Democrats erupted in cheers when Clinton said, “In conclusion…”
He’s done pretty well for himself in the 24 years since then. At the 2004 DNC, Clinton’s speech in support of John Kerry reminded us how much we miss Bill Clinton. I’m guessing we’ll be feeling something similar as he nominates Barack Obama for a second term. Here are my thoughts (also known as Smart-Ass Commentary) as I watch President Clinton’s speech from the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte:
•You know President Clinton’s on his way when you hear Fleetwood Mac. I love the fact that Clinton has recognizable entrance music like he’s Shawn Michaels.
•As much as I love Clinton, I’d love him 8 million times more if he used Shawn Michaels’ entrance music (“I think I’m cute, I know I’m sexy/I’ve got the looks, That drive the girls wild/I’ve got the moves, That really move ‘em/I send chills, Up and down their spines/I’m just a sexy boy”)
•That’s right…11 seconds in and I’ve referenced professional wrestling. Strap in, kids.
•Oh. Chelsea. (I’m doing everything I can to keep from being sexist and shallow right now.)
•I imagine that President Clinton is far healthier now that he’s lost so much weight, but I kind of miss the Clinton that Phil Hartman played.
•I miss Phil Hartman, too.
•I just miss the 90’s. Can I go back?
•The Democrats did a far better job at capturing the crowd noise in the arena than the Republicans did. Mic’ing the crowd properly makes a difference.
•Clinton: “We’re here to nominate a President. And I’ve got one in mind!” — I’m guessing he has three in mind. And two of them are named “Clinton”.
•Listen, this isn’t going to be as smart-assed as usual — not because it’s a Democratic gathering instead of a Republican gathering, but because I love Bill Clinton. I love Bill Clinton like I love family. I’m going to try to be a smart-ass, but just understand this right now — Bill Clinton is a fucking God in my world.
•It’s amazing how much better of a speaker Bill Clinton is than anybody else in American politics.
•It’s always funny when Clinton does something like mention how Barack “had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama” because you immediately think, “Bill wants to hit that.”
•Seriously, how the hell is Clinton so goddamn natural? The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution sucks.
•Oh. Chelsea. Um…how about we show Michelle more often?
•Clinton makes statistics sound awesome.
•Clinton never learned to hate the far right — I don’t know about that. He hated the shit out of those Republicans who targeted him.
•George W. Bush just got complimented by Clinton for PEPFAR and 18,000 Democrats in Charlotte didn’t know what to do.
•Do Clinton’s long-ass fingers have three knuckles?
•Shout-out for Vice President Biden!
•”Heck, he even appointed Hillary!” — Bill Clinton fucking rules.
•Now Clinton is just talking about Hillary. He might turn around and just nominate her.
•I’m watching this on ABC and they switch camera shots so much that I’ve had about six epileptic seizures since Clinton started. And I don’t even have epilepsy.
•Do you think Jimmy Carter is bitter that nobody asks him to be their Bill Clinton?
•Why do all Democratic political aides wear jeans with suit jackets and white dress shirts but no ties? Is that the uniform?
•Half of these delegates with their stupid hats are just smiling goofily without understanding what is being said. They are like the people who listen to music and only hear the beat without realizing that there are lyrics.
•Have I mentioned how good Bill Clinton is?
•With that said, he is a little wordy, isn’t he?
•(Look who’s talking, Anthony.)
•You know how people wonder how the German people could blindly follow Hitler just because of how he spoke and what he said? Well, after a Bill Clinton speech, I don’t wonder about that so much.
•The director for ABC News really needs to stop switching cameras. Just show the fucking stage. I’m tired of seeing these clowns in the audience with their glittery hats and dumb buttons.
•Has anybody noticed that there are a lot more black people at the Democratic Convention? I wonder why that is?
•Clinton is just straight breaking down everything that’s happened from 2009 until today, why it has happened, and what it means for you. If he can’t be President anymore, can we just have him explain everything that our government does? Would anyone have an issue with that?
•Even if nothing that Clinton was saying was accurate, I’d still believe him.
•Seriously. I’d just blindly believe him. He’s the only person in the world who I can say that about.
•”It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.” — I’m just bowing to Clinton. WE’RE NOT WORTHY!
•I can’t tell if Clinton is going off a prepared speech or just freestyling. Seems like he’s looking at the teleprompter, but his delivery is so natural.
•I’m telling you, Clinton should be the national “Here’s What Happened” guy.
•Okay, Bubba, I love you, but we’re at 40 minutes now.
•By the time Clinton’s done speaking, it will be time to start the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
•I hate crowd reaction shots — everyone is just awkward and makes me feel weird.
•Oh, he’s ramping up…grand finale time!
•Clinton is on fucking fire. Perfect ending.
•And a Presidential hug at the end — Clinton is either shrinking with age or Obama has some lifts in his shoes because Clinton used to be a good two inches taller than Obama.
•FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS! And not for Obama — for Bill Clinton. Come on, let’s stop fucking around. Clinton’s 66 years old and won’t be around forever, so let’s hurry up and revoke the stupid 22nd Amendment and get Bill back in the White House. I mean, really. The 22nd was put in place because of FDR’s lengthy term…because…you know…FDR was so terrible for our country. Get rid of the 22nd Amendment and bring back Bill Clinton!
I promise that I’ll be able to be a bigger smart-ass with Vice President Biden and President Obama’s speeches tonight. That commentary will be posted tomorrow morning. Until then, let’s all think about either revoking the 22nd Amendment or just making Bill Clinton the national “Here’s What Happened” czar.
That’s a great question. In my “Quick Questions” interview with Edward McClelland last week, I asked him a similar question. McClelland is a Chicago journalist who covered Barack Obama during the President’s rise through Illinois state politics and the author of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (BOOK•KINDLE). I asked if he thought Obama would seek elective office in the future — particularly another run at the White House — if he loses to Mitt Romney in November and McClelland answered, “If it’s extremely close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run again.”
If President Obama loses his bid for re-election in November, he will leave office at a younger age than any President in American history besides Theodore Roosevelt. Obama certainly wouldn’t have a difficult time finding work, but the problem is what kind of meaningful work could keep a President — especially one who is just 51 years old — interested and occupied. It’s not too big of a stretch to imagine Obama pulling a Grover Cleveland and trying to win a non-consecutive term in 2016. Doing that, however, would probably require a very difficult campaign for the Democratic nomination from fellow Democrats who might believe that he had his chance and didn’t succeed. Most likely, he’d be facing off against his 2007-2008 rival and current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton I don’t know if he could win that race.
On top of that, I don’t know if another grueling Presidential campaign would be something that Obama’s family would want to endure. Obama was very clear in 2008 that he had one chance to run for President and that Michelle would be adamantly opposed to a second run if he had lost in 2008. We often forget how exhausting, stressful, and tough it is to run for President, particularly for someone who has a young family. It would be doubly hard in this hypothetical situation as he’d have to re-energize the voters who swept him into office in 2008 while simultaneously defending his first term, admitting some missteps, and declaring why he deserved another chance.
That’s if he loses in November. Let’s say that the President IS re-elected in November. Even with a second term, he would be just 55 years old upon leaving office — about the same age that President Clinton was at the end of his two terms. In this case, I highly doubt that he would seek a different elective office. John Quincy Adams served 17 years in the House of Representatives following his Presidency and Andrew Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate after he left the White House. That was the 19th Century, however. Congress doesn’t have the same appeal or dignity that it once possessed. It’s the most unpopular organization in the United States, with a dismal 9% approval rating. An ex-President joining the Senate or the House following his term in the 21st Century wouldn’t be elevating the chamber he served as much as he’d be tarnishing whatever legacy he left the White House with. Everything King Midas touched turned to gold, but anything that touches the Congress in this divisive era turns to shit. A former President wouldn’t want to pollute himself by diving into such a messy place. Plus, a President is used to action. The deliberate pace and constantly obstructionist ways of today’s Congress would drive him insane.
My guess is that Obama would follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, now, George W. Bush and not only build a Presidential Library but establish a foundation that can target issues or areas that Obama takes an interest in. I don’t know what that would be, but I don’t think he’d just go home to Chicago, teach a couple of night classes each week, and play some pick-up basketball. Like Clinton and Carter, he would be active. One job that I could see him in (if a Democratic President was in office and able to offer it to him) is a seat on the Supreme Court. It’s not unprecedented — President Harding appointed former President Taft as Chief Justice — and it seems like the type of job that would perfectly suit Obama’s nature and intellect. His opponents would be thrilled to take their best shot at him during confirmation hearings, but I think he would be confirmed.
Other than that, I just don’t know. I can see him being an activist, but I don’t quite know what he would be an activist about. Whether he leaves office in January at 51 or January 2016 at 55, the President will become a very young ex-President, and I couldn’t imagine him retiring and kicking back on a beach in Hawaii for the rest of his life.
Author Edward McClelland, a veteran Chicago journalist, wrote a great book about Barack Obama’s early political career called Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (BOOK•KINDLE) that was I reviewed upon publication and found really interesting. With the 2012 race and President’s Obama’s bid for re-election really heating up, I asked McClelland a few quick questions to gain the perspective of a longtime Obama-watcher.
DP: Recently, I’ve had a significant amount of readers who have questioned President Obama’s political toughness. In your book, Young Mr. Obama, you chronicled the President’s rise through the Chicago political world. Do you think people underestimate the President’s tenacity because of the way he projects himself?
McClelland: He comes off as a very cool, dispassionate personality. The other side of that is that he’s one of the most calculating people I’ve ever met, and doesn’t hesitate to discard people who are of no more use to him politically. He’s tough and unsentimental in that way.
DP: We never know what kind of “Swift Boat”-type attacks might pop in between Labor Day and Election Day and it seems to me that the Obama campaign will not let any attack, major or minor, pass without a direct response. Is this a trademark of past Obama campaigns in Illinois? The Obama team does not hesitate to strike back, does it?
McClelland: I think this is as much David Axelrod’s influence as Obama’s. During Obama’s Senate campaign, embarrassing divorce files on two opponents — Blair Hull and Jack Ryan — were leaked to the press. Obama will use whatever dirt he can find on Romney.
DP: I get the feeling that the President respects Paul Ryan, but genuinely dislikes Mitt Romney — maybe not personally, but because of Romney’s shifting political sands. You’ve watched Obama for a long time; do you sense that the President has a bit of disdain for Governor Romney?
McClelland: I did read that in POLITICO, but can’t speak to it otherwise.
DP: In your opinion, is this re-election bid the toughest race of Obama’s political career?
McClelland: I think his toughest race was his failed run for Congress against Bobby Rush. But I think this is the race Obama is taking most seriously, and the race he’s most determined to win.
DP: Obviously, political leaders evolve and mature, but from your perspective, has there been a marked change in the President’s personality or tactics that has surprised you?
McClelland: I am a little surprised to see him slinging so much mud at Mitt Romney, since he began his career as a good-government politician and spoke out against dividing America into Red and Blue during his address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But because he inherited such a deep recession, he doesn’t have a record of economic growth to run on, so he has to tear down Romney.
DP: Is Obama’s Chicago campaign crew as potent of a machine as it was in 2008, or are there obvious chinks in the armor in the President’s homefront?
McClelland: Well, Romney has been attacking Obama as a “Chicago politician.” The fact that our murder rate is up this year doesn’t reflect well on us, or Obama.
DP: If Mitt Romney wins in November, Barack Obama will be a 51-year-old ex-President. Could he pull a Grover Cleveland and make another run in 2016, or do you think that he (or Michelle) would shut the door on being a candidate for public office in the future?
McClelland: If It’s extremely close, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run again.
Big thanks to Edward McClelland for answering a few questions for Dead Presidents! If you guys enjoyed it, I’d love to do some more quick author interviews on the blog in the future. As I said earlier (and in my original book review), I strongly recommend McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama. The book gives us some fascinating insight on the type of politician Obama is and you’ll be surprised at some of the obstacles he faced, battles he fought, and lessons he learned as he made his rise through Chicago and Illinois state politics. The book is a steal right now for just $2.99 on Kindle, so go grab it now!
Edward McClelland is also on Twitter @TedMcClelland. Keep an eye out for his next book, Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland, which will be released on May 14, 2013 by Bloomsbury Press.