The Campaign Spot

Obama: ‘I’m a Blue Dog at Heart.’

You may want to do Jodi Kantor a favor and buy her book, The Obamas, to help alleviate my guilt from quoting from it so often. But there are so many great, how-could-he-say-that moments she describes. Let me offer two more to close out the week.

First, a fascinating bit of self-perception on the part of the president, p. 312:

The president had been taking questions for almost an hour. He had apologetically told the mostly liberal crowd that he had been forced to take a centrist point of view in his presidency because of divided government. (Never mind that Obama had told conservative Democrats in Congress that he was one of them, too: “I’m a Blue Dog at heart,” he had said in more than one meeting.)

(Insert dog jokes here.)

Second, a fascinating statement from the president at a fundraiser on the last day of June last year, pp. 313–314:

“When you ran for president, you awakened something in this country I haven’t seen since President Kennedy,” [Obama donor Judee von Seldeneck] said, looking directly at the president. “Why don’t you provide the leadership we all expected from you and desperately need?” It was the elephant in the room: what had happened to the Barack Obama of 2008?

The other donors applauded.

His answer was weak, von Seldeneck said later. Looking irritated, the president used a line he deployed a lot that summer, about being wiser, grayer, battle-tested. He blamed some of his ills on Congress, and said he needed to see the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations through. “I can’t come untethered yet,” he said, and von Seldeneck wondered what that meant.

He acknowledged the way his former success hung around his neck. “I’m running against the Barack Obama of 2008,” he said, but he also made what sounded like an unrealistic promise. “If you thought the last campaign was something, you just wait for the next one. It’s going to be better,” he finished.

Man, when the Obama of today runs against the Obama of 2008, I cannot wait to see the attack ads.


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