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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Boxing With A “Believer”: Talking With David Axelrod

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David Axelrod joined me this morning for an hour-plus long interview on his fascinating –indeed riveting– new memoir Believer: My Forty Years In Politics, which I will replay in its entirety on today’s show.  Every Republican remotely connected to the 2016 race has to read the book, especially pp. 188-250 on President Obama’s 2007-2008 Iowa caucus campaign.

There is also a very endearing and personal side to this book in which Axelrod reveals the details of a life that has seen tremendous triumphs but which has been burdened with incredible sorrows as well, including a father who took his own life and a daughter who has battled debilitating epilepsy her entire life.  Disagree with nearly everything he has done and brought about, and I do, and you still have to admire him as a dad and husband.

The audio:

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The transcript:

HH: David Axelrod, welcome to the program. It’s great to have you on.

DA: I’m happy to be on. Thank you for the invitation.

HH: Believer, your new memoir, My 40 Years In Politics, is an amazing book. You’re a political genius. You are a wonderful dad, a hero, in fact, and I want to talk about that. But you’ve also totally screwed up the country. Can you last sixty minutes with me?

DA: You know, I don’t know, but my recollection is when we arrived there, the country wasn’t exactly in all that good a shape, you know? We were, had a huge economic crisis, the greatest since the Great Depression, two wars raging, and a bunch of very, very tough problems. When we arrived there, we were like a triage unit. And I was there during two very, very active years there. So I wish I could take credit for screwing up the country, Hugh, but I think it arrived in that fashion when we showed up.

HH: All right, well, we’ll come back to that. It’s actually not what interests me most about Believer. There’s so much that interests me about this book. I want to start with biography. And it’s an amazing life. You’ve suffered a lot. I didn’t know that. That’s in the book. Your dad was an exile from a pogrom. He later took his life. You know, I once talked to Christopher Hitchens about his mom, who also took her own life. It’s very difficult to talk about. But you put it in the book. Why did you do that? I mean, that’s got to be hard to talk about.

DA: You know, it took me 30 years to talk about it publicly, and around 2005-2006, father’s day was approaching, and it was just about the time of year when my father took his life. And I always thought about it a lot during those weeks. And I thought you know, why is it that I don’t talk about it publicly? And I realized I didn’t talk about it publicly, because I thought somehow, it shamed him to say that he had committed suicide, or maybe it shamed me. And that’s wrong. That’s wrong. Mental illness is an illness. Depression is an illness. The suicidal impulses are a manifestation of that. And the more we can encourage people to be open about it, the more, the better chance we have to get folks to get the help they need. One of the things that was really moving to me when I wrote that piece was just this outpouring of mail and emails and calls that I got from people who thanked me for talking about it, because they felt more open about talking about their own experiences, both survivors and people who were dealing with depression. So my hope is by telling these stories, not only to write an honest book about my life, because my father’s death when I was 19 was a very significant event in my life, but because I want people to know that it’s okay to talk about such things.

HH: And the detail, Jessica is playing in the background, and obviously you remember, as Hitch remembered quite specifically, the circumstances under which you learned of this. I think other people who have gone through that will recognize that’s not unique, that that’s actually…

DA: No, no, you know, what happened in my case was that I was a college student in Chicago. My father lived in New York. A police officer came to my door, and knocked on my door. It was the early 70s, and you can imagine that when you’re a college student, no one’s enthused when a police officer knocks on your door. And my roommate was very hesitant, and I said no, no, let him in. And he gave me this news that my father was dead, and that I had to, they wanted me to go back to New York to identify the body. And my, and you know, everything about it, everything about it is something that I will never forget. And anybody who’s gone through it would say the same thing. It’s just, it’s a big scarring memory. One thing, one footnote to that story, and I wasn’t able to get this into the book, the police officer was a guy named Gardner. And years later, I was a newspaper reporter, and I was on a night shift at the Chicago Tribune, and I was covering some crime, and I called to get some facts, and the guy who got on the line was this Officer Gardner. I think he was a sergeant by then. And he said say, I recognize you name. Are you that young guy I came to see about your dad?

HH: Wow.

DA: And I said I am. And he said hey, I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing well. I thought about you a lot. I will never forget that. It was such a kind thing that he remembered. And…

HH: You know, it’s interesting about what people recall, and your book, there’s a book within the book here about President Obama, but the book about David Axelrod, there’s a lot of confession in here. For example, you clearly carried the burden of slamming Paul Simon upside against the head. And you write a regret on that on Page 104. So this is genuinely an autobiography as well as one of those standalone memoirs that people write.

DA: Yeah, and you know, Hugh, I really, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the book was that I, the Obama experience has been an incomparable experience. But I wasn’t born in 2007, you know. I had a long life before that, that led up to that. That experience was the culmination of a career and my professional life. But I had a lot of formative experiences before that, interesting experiences. I’ve been involved in 150 campaigns. And I really wanted to reclaim my life. I wanted to tell my story. And I wanted to tell my story in a way that said that there is value and worth in being in the public arena, because part of my mission now, you know, I run an institute of politics at the University of Chicago, is to inspire young people to believe at a time of great cynicism that it’s good to get into the public arena in some form or fashion, as a candidate or an advisor, or a talk show host or a journalist. But you know, this is, democracy requires participation. It’s a participation sport. And if you don’t participate, then it’s going to erode. In that book, the epigram in the book is from Robert Kennedy saying the future’s not a gift. It’s an achievement. And I really believe that. And you know, you and I may have different views on some issues. I’m sure we’ll get into some of that. But I know you care deeply about this country. I care deeply about this country. And it’s good that we have these discussions about which way we should go, and not just get swept along haphazardly by the tides of history.

HH: Let me jump ahead, then, on that point. I do believe everyone is sort of committed and they’re sincere. I’ve met some insincere people in here. You know, I don’t think people are rotten. I just think they’re wrong.

DA: Yeah.

HH: My best friend in the world is a guy named Marc Gearan, whom you probably know, was Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.

DA: Yeah, sure.

HH: He was my college roommate. So he’s just wrong. He’s not rotten. I love the guy. So why on Page 270 call Sean Hannity a right wing shock jock? Why do that, David? You know he’s a good guy. Everybody knows Sean Hannity’s a wonderful guy.

DA: Actually, I don’t, I honestly don’t know him. But…and I don’t, do you think he would, do you think that he would take umbrage at that characterization?

HH: Yeah, he’s a good journalist. You know, he’s an opinion journalist. He’s sort of like Jonathan Alter who’s on my show a lot. These guys are guys of the left and guys to the right, gals on the left, gals on the right. Very few of them are rotten, I think. So I just…

DA: I did not, now look, I didn’t say a rotten right wing shock jock. I wasn’t characterizing him in that way. But that’s the role that it seems to me he plays in these discussions. And I, you know, so I appreciate you pointing that out. It wasn’t, you know, I have no relationship with Hannity. Sometimes, I find him to be a bit of a bloviater when he’s going after his prey.

HH: You should go on his show.

DA: And both folks on the left and the right do that.

HH: It’s a good interview. It’s a good interview. Let me go back to biography, because I’m fascinated by this. You’re obviously Jewish. You’re the son of an exile. There’s a pogrom.

DA: Yeah.

HH: Your dad, Joseph, gets out ahead of the Cossacks. And on Page 291, you’re talking about President Obama, and then-Senator Obama’s visit to Israel, and you write, “This visit would help quell the concerns of some American Jews who feared that a black man with an Islamic-sounding name and a Farrakhan-hugging minister would not feel a sufficient bond with Israel. I was a top advisor, and many of Obama’s early mentors and supporters in politics were Jews, and yet the questions persisted. I know what he says about Israel, I was asked more than once by anxious Jews back home. But does he feel it in his kishkes?” And now today, I mean today, people are worried about this still, David Axelrod, because he obviously hates Netanyahu, and he obviously is doing a deal with the Iranians. Do you still think he feels a bond in his kishkes for Israel?

DA: Oh, I do. You know, first of all, Hugh, I think I represent the views of a lot of American Jews who feel passionately about Israel. I think I’ve been there seven or eight times. I remember when my grandfather went for the first time, and what, he was an orthodox Jew, what that experience meant to him. But a lot of American Jews, and I think a lot of Israelis are worried about where the future is going in terms of Israel’s status as a democratic Jewish state, and feel that a two-state solution is the answer to that. And the President passionately believes that as well. And you know, the disagreements with Netanyahu, I think hate is a very strong word, but they don’t get along. I think that’s pretty clear. And partly because the President felt that even though Netanyahu said that he supported a two-state solution at key junctures, he made it more difficult to achieve that, just as, by the way, there were disappointments on the other side. The Palestinians were disappointing at times in this process as well. So you know, I don’t think, to say, Hugh, you’re passionate a two-state solution means that you’re not passionate about Israel. I think it’s just the opposite. In terms of Iran, what the President has said, and by the way, I traveled with him around the world when he was working on trying to get these withering sanctions in place, and lining up the Russians, and lining up a lot of unlikely players to join in these sanctions. And he achieved that. And the reason that there are talks right now, and by all accounts, the Iranian nuclear program is frozen, is because of these sanctions that have played havoc with the Iranian economy. And now people want stronger sanctions. So I think it’s, in certain ways, it is an acknowledgement that the President’s approach was right. But what the President has said, and I think he’s right, is that you know, why don’t we see? Why don’t we see what we can get done through this process, because once you abandon this process, there aren’t that many options left. And if you feel like the military option is the best option, maybe that’s the way you want to go. But most Americans, I think most people around the world, and maybe many Israelis, would prefer a solution short of war.

HH: Now, but a solution that leaves them with enrichment is unacceptable. I mean, that’s what I thought the President’s position was. But he also drew a red line in Syria that erases. Has he erased the red line around an enrichment capacity remaining in Iran, David Axelrod?

DA: I think the key is to create a situation where they are not within reach of a breakout, and breakout being that close to producing a weapon. And so you know, I’m not, Hugh, I’ve been out of the government for four years, so I’m not negotiating for the President or speaking for the President. But I know that that is the goal, and he’s been public about that. And where that leaves you in terms of the ability of Iran to produce any kind of nuclear material, even low level nuclear material, is I think a subject for these negotiations.

HH: Right, let’s go back to you. I want to talk about Lauren, Michael, Ethan, and of course your wife, Susan. The first three are your children. I am also the father of a girl, boy, boy in that order. My life, not one of my children, but one of my siblings touched by epilepsy, so I know the deal a little bit, not anything like this. I did not know this story, and it’s an amazing story. Your wife, I just admire her immensely because you’re on the road so much. And there’s agony in this book, “Mommy, make is stop.”

DA: Oh, yeah.

HH: How is Lauren doing?

DA: She’s doing well. I should give people a little bit of a background here.

HH: Please.

DA: Lauren was our first child. She was born in 1981. And she was the most beautiful, little baby you could ever imagine. I mean, everybody says that, but you know, the truth is most babies look a little like Winston Churchill when they’re born. This baby was a doll from the moment she was born, and seemed perfect in every way. And then when she turned 7, Susan found her blue and limp in her crib…

HH: Seven months.

DA: …and thought she’d died.

HH: Seven months, right?

DA: Seven months old, yes.

HH: Yeah.

DA: …and called me fast. I was a newspaper reporter at the time. She called me at the newspaper so frantic and so terrified, I’d never heard anything like that from her before. We rushed to the hospital. They said well, she’s had seizures, and we saw one then. And it was terrifying to watch her convulse, and her hands go up, her eyes roll back in her head, her lips turn blue, her face turn blue from lack of oxygen. And they said well, this is probably from a fever, it’ll probably pass in a couple of days. We were released from the hospital a month later, and she was still having ten seizures a day. They just couldn’t control it. And it turns out that in half the cases, there is, they don’t have control. A third of people are what you would call intractable, where they just don’t, they have seizures that can’t be stopped. And Lauren was one of those people for 19 years. They would come in waves. She would have respites, but they would come in waves. And when she started having seizures, it was very, very difficult to get them stopped. And we tried everything – 21 different medications and different combinations that had all kinds of very deleterious effects on her – made her fat, made her thin, made her angry, made her subdued, and just played havoc with her mind and her body. But we couldn’t get them stopped. We had a vagal nerve implant, a stimulator that was supposed to help stop them, didn’t help. Finally, we had brain surgery where they, exploratory brain surgery. They laid a plate on top of her brain when she was an early teenager to try and find the focal point of these seizures and see if they couldn’t surgically remove that part of the brain without damaging essential functions. Ten days, she had seizures because they removed all her medication as they monitored these seizures to try and find this focal point. And at the end of it, the doctor walked in very glum and said I’m sorry, we can’t find it, we can’t do anything about it. And that was the worst day of my life, I’m sure Susan’s, and we’d both experienced some very bad days. But to tell that little girl who had put herself through that, that there was no hope, was more than we could bear. And so Susan reacted by doing something. She and a couple of mothers who have similarly affected kids, formed something called Citizens United For Research in Epilepsy at our kitchen table. It’s now the largest private funder of epilepsy research in the world.

HH: No seizures, no side effects. Great line. Great goal.

DA: Yeah, and that is our goal, because the seizures can be deadly. Up to 50,000 people lose their lives in seizure-related, from seizure-related causes every year, many of them young. But the treatments are also punishing. And it’s not good enough to numb the mind in order to try and quell the seizures. And it’s not good enough to have all these horrible side effects, that my daughter, at one point, we had to, she was institutionalized in a mental hospital for three weeks, or the psych ward of a hospital, I should say, for three weeks. We couldn’t see her, because she had become psychotic as a result of all of this. So you know, our goal is to get to the root cause of epilepsy, and to find cutting edge treatments that will stop the seizures before they begin, not just treat the seizures after.

HH: It’s deeply touching.

DA: And so Susan’s a pioneer. You know, what I learned, Hugh, from this is how powerful a mother’s love is. As you said, there were nights when we’d go in, Lauren’s seizures always began in the night, and she would have flurries of seizures, just violent, violent seizures. And in between, she would grab Susan’s hand and she would say Mommy, make them stop. And I remember the tears flowing down both our face, but Susan’s face, but we couldn’t. We couldn’t. And that’s the worst feeling in the world when your child cries out for help and you can’t help them.

HH: I would love for Susan to write a book as a companion to yours, because I’d love to see the other side of this life reflected, because she stayed home. You have to be on the road, 150 campaigns, traveling constantly.

DA: Right. Listen…

HH: And she supports you.

DA: Hugh, you know what? I would love to put her on the phone with you, because I’ve been trying to persuade her of this. She’s got an incredible story, and a lot to impart. And she is, she is the person I most admire in the world.

HH: Any time.

DA: And she is the most admirable person I know.

HH: There’s a story in here that shows how interwoven your story is with President Obama’s. You would take your developmentally-disabled daughter bowling, because as she fell behind her friends, it becomes lonelier and lonelier. And I’ve watched this at fairly close range with other people’s children. And so you like bowling with Lauren, and so you encouraged President Obama to go bowling in Pennsylvania, and he rolled a 37, one of my best days in that campaign, David Axelrod.

DA: That was an unfortunate decision. Honestly, I wasn’t necessarily telling him to bowl. What I learned by being in those bowling allies, and we would go and bowl for three and four hours, you know, I actually got pretty good at bowling. Trust me, I didn’t ever roll a 37. But what I noticed was that when you go into a bowling alley. One person’s bowling, and everybody else is sitting around. And I thought what a great opportunity to shake hands and meet people and talk to people. It was someone’s bright idea on the scene there to say why don’t you bowl? They thought it would be a good photo op, and it turned into a disaster. I will tell you this, though, Hugh, and it tells you something about the President. He is so competitive, that you know, one of the perks of being president is there’s a bowling alley at Camp David. And he’s been steadily working on his game. It’s, he’s a very, very proficient bowler now.

HH: You know, okay, if he…

DA: So that experience was a searing one for him, and he’s done something about it.

HH: David Axelrod, if he’s so competitive, why does he only take batting practice with journalists? He never sits down with somebody like me or even on the record for an extended interview. He never takes tough questions in an extended, probing fashion.

DA: Well, I don’t know about that, but I’m happy to pass along your request. I would love to see him sit down with you. I mean, he’s done, you know, he’s done O’Reilly, and he’s done others on the right. And he’s taken questions from people who feel he’s insufficiently on the left. And he’s taken a lot of comers on here. But I would be very happy to see him set some time…

HH: Yeah, pass that along for me. Now you are pals, in this book, it comes clear that you’re pals with Murphy, Mike Murphy, and Mark McKinnon…

DA: Yes.

HH: …and all the uber elites of America’s permanent campaign. Now and it raises this question for my audience. Do you guys really believe anything? Or do you all just kind of sit around and love the game in the way that some land guys love the deal? You just chase the candidate? There’s no ideology there?

DA: Yeah, you know, I think that’s a fair question. And in my case, and I think in the case of the others, Murphy is a very, very passionate guy, and really, really loves the country, cares about it. We argue a lot. We’ve run campaigns against each other. I feel, and that’s what this book is about. I feel very passionately about what politics is all about. I never went into it, honestly never went into it as a business. I went into it because I was passionate about it, and it turned out that I could make a living doing it. And so I went down that path. One thing I want to impart is that I do admire people who are in the arena. I do admire people who are willing to devote themselves to this, to politics. And I don’t feel, I think one thing we have to do is get back to a point in our politics where we can disagree without it disqualifying each other as Americans. And so I pride myself on my relationships across the aisle. One of the nice things about the Institute of Politics in Chicago is that I’ve been able to have, you know, Newt Gingrich, and I’ve been able to have Jeb Bush, and I’ve been able to have Reince Priebus and a whole bunch of folks from the Republican side, just had the guy who runs the Koch Brothers’ Americans For Prosperity at my…

HH: Sure, it’s clear that the game…

DA: Tim Philips, who is a great guy, and so you know, we don’t agree on anything. But we do agree that it’s important to be involved in this debate. And I, you know, so I make no apologies for having friends across the aisle. I kind of pride myself on it.

HH: But let’s talk specifically, for example, about the campaign against Hillary. On Page 266 of Believer, you talk about the hitting her hard on the individual mandate, and you write, “The attacks we wielded against her would look every more dubious in the full blush of history given that Obama as president would embrace the health care mandate and become a stalwart promoter of trade treaties.” In other words, the campaign is disconnected from governing. Another place you write about the mayor of Cleveland race, “Governing is always more difficult than campaigning.” That’s why I think Americans are cynical, is nobody believes anything about campaigns anymore.

DA: Yeah, well look, I don’t think campaigns are, I don’t think this is something new in American history. I think the way campaigns are covered, the way they’re perhaps the tools of campaigns and communications have elevated some of the disagreeable aspects of it. But I don’t think, you know, history is replete with examples of candidates who ran and trim their sails in some form or fashion on the way to winning an election and were faced with issues when they were governing that caused them to change or adapt their view. So I, you know, I understand what you’re saying, and I wrote, look, I was very candid about that in this book.

HH: You were.

DA: The President, then-Senator Obama, made a very, made the argument as to why he didn’t want to do an adult mandate. It wasn’t, he never once, Hugh, did he say to us I think it would be bad politics, and so this is the position I’m going to take. He said this is what I believe. When he became president and he was putting his health care plan together, all of the folks who were working on it came to him and said you can’t make this work unless everybody is in the system. That’s how you get the economies of scale that allow the insurance companies to provide the kinds of benefits that we need them to provide. So he made that judgment when he put his plan together. But…

HH: Well now, I’ll come back to that stuff in a bit. There’s so much about the 2008 campaign in here that I recommended it to Marco Rubio two days ago that he had to read Page 188-250. Everyone who’s going to run for president has to read the 75 pages on your Iowa campaign. It’s like a primer. But speaking about the Secretary of State for just a moment, what did Secretary of State Clinton accomplish when she was secretary of State?

DA: Well, I think that you, a lot of what the President was working on was also her work. So as I said, you know, we went around the world and worked very hard to cobble together a coalition against Iran. She was very much a part of that effort. I know that she comes under attack now on the issue of the reset. But the reality is that in the first two years of the President’s administration when Dimitri Medvedev was the president of Russia, there was a different opportunity, and we took advantage of that opportunity in terms of arms treaties and a whole range of other issues that were good for this country. It is unfortunate that President Putin has decided to take the kind, his country backward. But both President Obama and Secretary Clinton deserve credit for the advances that were made in that period.

HH: Now you’ve been advising Hillary for years, though, all the way back to 1992. It was a revelation to me in Believer that you advised against her infamous milk and cookies appearance, right?

DA: Well, you know, what happened was I was informally advising the Clinton campaign at the time, and Bill Clinton came into Chicago, and I was involved in putting the debate negotiations together in the primaries. He was debating Jerry Brown. And Jerry Brown went hard after Bill Clinton about what would later become known as the Whitewater issue, and drew Hillary into the discussion. And there was a very vituperative exchange, I’ll say, between Clinton and Brown in which Clinton said you know, you can say whatever you want about me, but you aren’t even worthy of being on the same stage with my wife. And after the debate, there was a meeting, because the next day, both Clintons were due to campaign in Chicago, and my suggestion was that he go out alone, because if she were there, it would elevate that debate exchange. And I was overruled on that, and I was sort of a minor player. I was an interloper, so I didn’t have the ability to make a very strong argument or winning argument. And she went out and she did make that comment. That was unfortunate, and something that dogged her for some time after that.

HH: It’s going to do her, too, in this next campaign. But since you’ve given her advice before, you know her so well, you know her record at State, and you’re the message maestro, you’re the guy who crafts the 30 second pitch, how is she going to craft her 30 seconds on what she did at State? What’s she going to say?

DA: First of all, Hugh, I think she’ll have plenty to say what she did at State. She just wrote a whole book on it. But this election is going to be, as every election is, where you’re going to take the country, where do you want to take the country, what is the future going to look like. And I think the greatest imperative for her, and frankly, every candidate, and I know Marco Rubio probably was talking about his views about the American middle class on our program, this is the fundamental issue of our time. Are we going to create an economy in which work pays and which people who work hard can get ahead, that value is honored, and or are we going to be a country where people work harder and harder just to try and keep up?

HH: Well, I’ve got to argue with your premise, David Axelrod, and I want to use the authority of David Axelrod to do so. On Page 194, this is the most important page in Believer, you reproduce your late 2006 memo to the President, then-Senator Obama, about running for president. And you write, “The most influential politician in 2008 won’t be on the ballot. His name is George W. Bush. With few exceptions, the history of presidential politics shows that public opinion and attitudes about who should occupy the Oval Office next are largely shaped by the perception of the retiring incumbent. And rarely do voters look for a replica. Instead, they generally choose a course correction, selecting a candidate who will address the deficiencies of the outgoing president. So it’s not as you put it, it’s about being not Obama. So what are the…

DA: But Hugh, I think, let’s separate this out, because a lot of this has to do with the style and approach of a president. You know, one of the reasons Barack Obama got elected was because there was a sense that George Bush was too Manichean in his thinking, too bombastic, saw the world in terms of black and white, didn’t see the gray, and people wanted a president who could. And they also wanted a president who was very much outside of the system, who would challenge Washington in a way that they felt Washington needed to be challenged. I think that the prism is a little bit different in 2016 because of what I said. I think that they will, people will choose someone who has different qualities than Barack Obama. And I think the candidate they choose will be someone they see, someone who they feel can master the system in Washington, operate in the system in Washington, not necessarily, you know, operate apart from the system in Washington. They’re going to choose someone who is a little less nuanced in their thinking than the President, more direct in their approach or perceived as more direct in their approach. I actually think that’s a climate that is much better for Hillary Clinton than it was in 2008, because her qualities are not Barack Obama’s qualities. They’re friends, they agree on issues, on many issues, but they have different approaches and different backgrounds and experiences. And I think that her profile is much better for 2016 than it was for 2008.

HH: Well, you’re taking one for the team there. But I’m telling you, Believer has got a, it’s like a game plan for going after Hillary. You talk about Hillary unchained, how Hillary was affronted, Hillary and Bill using the race card, playing the old, Southern, white Democrat after the South Carolina primary when Clinton said no big deal. He didn’t say it, you write, “No big deal, the black guy had won the black primary.” Hillary was baggage you didn’t need as veep. This is like a gift to the Republicans, David Axelrod.

DA: Well, if they think it is, and I hope they buy it and read it in large numbers, I really don’t think of it that way. The one thing that I’ve said, Hugh, publicly is that you know, Hillary Clinton was an ineffective candidate in 2007, because she was kind of cocooned in this presumption of inevitability, and very cautious. And once we one the Iowa Caucuses, she was a different candidate and a different campaigner. She threw the caution away. She was much more visceral in her campaigning. She connected very well with people. Her sense of advocacy came through very clearly. And she herself was more revealing of herself. My strong feeling is that if she is that candidate, she can do well. If she’s the first candidate, if she retreats back into the cocoon of inevitability and is cautious, then she’ll have a much harder time.

HH: Can Elizabeth Warren beat her?

DA: I don’t think Elizabeth, I know Elizabeth Warren well, and my strong feeling is she’s not going to run. I think she’s trying to influence the direction of the party, and you have more influence as a potential candidate than you do if you take yourself out. So she’s allowing, she’s sticking to this language of I’m not running for president, and titillating people with it, because it gives her more leverage. I don’t think she would beat her. I have high regard for Elizabeth. I don’t think she would beat her. Look, look at the polling, Hugh. Hillary is probably as well-positioned within her own party as any open seat candidate has been in our lifetime. And you know, she’s going to have to go out and work for it. If she assumes anything and doesn’t go out and work for it, and ear it, and make her case and present her, a rationale for a candidacy that resonates with people, then anybody is vulnerable under those circumstances. But you know, I know the team she’s assembling. I have a high regard for them. I have some sense of the kind of thinking she’s doing. I think she’s going to come out of the gate very strong.

HH: But then you’re saying, you have to be saying, I don’t mean to corner David Axelrod, I can’t corner David Axelrod. You’re saying that Elizabeth Warren is the candidate that Barack Obama was, because Barack Obama was in the same position vis-à-vis Hillary in 2007, and he beat Hillary, and you’re saying Elizabeth Warren couldn’t beat Hillary?

DA: No, what I’m saying is that 2007 was, is not 2015 or ’16. There was a dominant issue within the Democratic Party in 2007 and 2008, and that was the war in Iraq. Obama had opposed it, Hillary had voted for it. That gave him an enormous edge in the race. This is a different time. And so there isn’t that kind of galvanizing issue, particularly if Hillary comes out of the box, as I expect she will, talking very clearly about how to buttress the middle class, how to create greater opportunity, how to restore the value that says if you work hard in this country, you can get ahead.

HH: I’m going to try a third time, though, but you’re the message guy. How does she capture what was, in my view, a completely achievement-free four years at the Department of State? How do you give me 30 seconds that avoids the reset button, the collapse in Egypt, the Libyan fiasco, the Syrian civil war, the drift with our relationship with Israel, the utter chaos that’s become America in the world? How does Hillary escape that anchor?

DA: Well, she’ll make her case, Hugh, but as I said, I think there are lot if, there are number of other important advances that she had on her watch, which ended four years ago, that went to helping put together the international coalition in the midst of the financial crisis, putting together international coalitions around arms control, making sure that we had supply routes open so our troops could be resupplied in Afghanistan. There were a wide, you know, she dealt with a broad number of issues on which we had success. And you know, she’ll make that case. I do not believe, and you know, and I invite, you know, if folks on the other side want to try, they should. This race is not going to be about that. This race is going to be about the economy, about whether you can be a middle class person in this country and get ahead, whether you can be a striving person who is not well off , poor, and can work hard and make something of your life. That’s what this is about. We’ve got a profound challenge, and every developed economy has that challenge today because of the changing nature of the economy, technology and globalization. We either rise to that challenge or we’re going to have great, great disparities of opportunity in this country. And that fundamental value that is the American value, that if you work hard, you can get rewarded for that work and get ahead, is going to be in jeopardy.

HH: You know why I smell weakness there, David Axelrod, is because you have such a command of detail. You wrote at one point that when you picked the voiceover for Spanish ads in the Chicago mayoral race, you found a Colombian-accented spokesperson so as not to upset the Puerto Rican voters on the north side, or the Mexican voters on the south side. That’s on Page 90. And when I read that, I realized you know the detail. This is granular. And if you can’t get Hillary to 30 second ads on State Department, she’s lost. And you can’t do it, because no one…

DA: I think she’s going to be able to, I think she’s going to be able to make a great accounting of her record in the State Department. What I’m telling you, Hugh, is that if that’s the fight that the Republican Party wants to fight, and I’m just telling you this as a clinical matter. I’m not saying this…

HH: I get it, I get it.

DA: …for rhetorical purposes. I think that they’re going to be, they’re, it’s going to be a dry hole for them. And I think they know it, because when you see these Republican candidates, this isn’t what they’re talking about. What they’re talking about, you know, Jeb Bush is talking about the right to rise, Marco Rubio is talking about the middle class, Mitt Romney in his brief flirtation was talking about poverty. The Republican Party is talking about economics and middle class economics. And if they’re not, they’re not going to win this election.

HH: I think they’re going to be talking about Reagan’s peace through strength, because the President’s gutted the military. And we’ll come back to that in a second But let me go to the campaign itself.

DA: So you must be for lifting the sequester levels.

HH: I am. Amen. On the Department of Defense only. I’ve been arguing that for a long time. David Axelrod, a couple of quick questions. Why didn’t you guys ever release the President’s transcripts from Harvard Law School and Columbia and Occidental?

DA: You know, honestly, I’ve got to, I’m not fundamentally focused on that. It’s not something that I wrote about. And I’m not sure how relevant it is. What was it that you were looking for in there?

HH: Oh, I just wanted to know how he did. Like I went to law school at Michigan, and I want to know how he did in Contracts, Crimes. I want to know how he got on the Law Review. At one point, you know, you’re so specific in your book that I notice little things. On one page, for example, you refer to the president as the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. Of course, he wasn’t that, on Page 118. But then on Page 142, you correct it. You call him the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. So you got it wrong when you called him the first black editor. You got it right when you called him the first black president of the Law Review. So you’re very careful. So you had to have made a decision not to let those grades out, and I’m just curious why. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was a C or a D student.

DA: You know, well, I’ll tell you something. First of all, the book is about my experiences, and so, you know, I wasn’t around when he was at Harvard. But I’ll tell you what, I did go and interview some of the people who were his professors at Harvard, and to a person, they said he was perhaps the best student that they had ever encountered there. So you know, I mean, if that’s what you’re going for….

HH: No, I’m just curious as to why not?

DA: I mean, because I don’t think they would, you know, like I don’t remember what all the discussions were around these things. But I didn’t feel any necessity to go back to law school, college, high school, grade school, because it was apparent that this guy was a bright, accomplished guy, and anybody you talk to or who had dealt with him over the course of his career would tell you that, including the people who I filmed for commercials who were professors of his at Harvard.

HH: Yeah, if you don’t remember that, that’s the only thing you don’t remember, David Axelrod, because you remember, I mean, I found the conversation that you had with Blair Hull, when he was thinking about running for Senate, and he says there’s no paper on that with regards to the allegations of domestic abuse. You’ve got one hell of a memory. There’s not much that you’ve forgotten…

DA: Well that’s, when someone says something like that, it’s pretty memorable.

HH: Well, okay, well, you must remember and are choosing not to talk to us about it. That’s fine. You know, that’s fine. Let me ask you about Alan Dixon. You obviously didn’t like him much. Why did Alan Dixon’s vote for Clarence Thomas bother you so much?

DA: Well, it bothered me for the reasons that were borne out by a book that was later written by a couple of investigative reporters on that nomination. It bothered me, because I felt like he wasn’t voting on the merits. I felt like he had cut a deal to vote for Clarence Thomas in exchange for a weak opponent in his reelection campaign in 1992. And a book was written in which there was a very detailed account of how he went out and played golf with Dan Quayle, and this was discussed, and the deal was cut. And you know, my feeling was that it wasn’t a decision of principle. It was a decision that was based on a deal around the election, and that offended me. But it was also consistent with my feelings about Dixon generally, because he was a guy who was thoroughly consumed by politics, and not all that interested in policy or interested in following a particular point of view. He did what he thought he needed to do to perpetuate himself in office. And Hugh, that’s not unheard of in Washington. That, there are a lot of guys like that. He happened to be my Senator, and I was offended by that.

HH: Did you ever read Clarence Thomas’ memoir, My Grandfather’s Son?

DA: No.

HH: It’s a terrific book, David Axelrod. I mean, you would…

DA: I will put it on my list.

HH: Did you ever read The Looming Tower, by the way, by Lawrence Wright?

DA: I think I did, yes.

HH: That’s the must read. And that brings me to, you know Cass Sunstein well.

DA: Yes.

HH: And Cass Sunstein, who I admire for his intellect, not his positions greatly, has written an article about how Alger Hiss is the defining thing in American politics. Either you believe Alger Hiss was guilty, or you believe he was innocent. What do you believe, David Axelrod? Was Alger Hiss guilty?

DA: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know, because that happened in the late 1940s. And I wasn’t born, yet, and I haven’t really read a lot about it. I know that there have been varied accounts of that, including some that were based on records that were released after the…

HH: Yeah, he’s guilty, guilty, guilty. He’s a communist spy. Cass Sunstein knows that, but he, did you read that piece that Sunstein wrote?

DA: I didn’t.

HH: Okay, I’ll leave it alone then.

DA: I know Cass well, but I didn’t read that piece. Cass writes a lot of pieces. It would be a full-time job to keep up with them.

HH: Okay, just, Hiss was guilty, guilty, guilty. I just find it interesting that people don’t come to that. What about Saul Alinsky? He’s not in your book. Did you ever meet him?

DA: No.

HH: You never met Saul Alinsky?

DA: I’m not sure, I don’t even know when Saul Alinsky died. Saul Alinsky was active in the Woodlawn area, but I think he was pretty much gone by the time I got to Chicago.

HH: Okay, now Valerie Jarrett is in your book, but she doesn’t show up until Page 190. She’s a very ambiguous figure in your book. There’s a lot not written here. There’s a lot of spaces in which people can fill in some blanks. But was she part of the 2004 campaign strategy and tactics team, the Senate race?

DA: No, she was pretty much a fundraiser for Obama in 2004. She wasn’t deeply involved in the strategy of that campaign.

HH: You write that she doesn’t really know politics or campaigns at all, but she survived you all. She’s still there. Emmanuel’s gone, he’s in Chicago, you’re in Chicago, Plouffe’s gone, the other guy just left this week. The only one left is Valerie.

DA: Well, she’s very committed to the President, obviously, and they’re very close, and they’ve been close for 25 years. And one of the reasons why he wanted her in the White House is that they have a very close relationship, both he and the First Lady, with Valerie. They have confidence in her, and they feel that she’s unswervingly loyal, and I think it is.

HH: Is she good, is the White House well-served by someone that loyal that long?

DA: I think that she, the President is, any president is well-served by having someone around him in whom, with whom he has an absolute bond of trust, and they have an absolute bond of trust. And that’s important to him, and I understand that.

HH: Now earlier, you said that the election of President Obama was much in reaction to the presidency of President Bush, which was Manichean and black and white. And now all we get is gray from this president. In fact, to the contretemps this week, that he can’t even call the attack on the Kosher deli other than random. And I’m sure you saw the torture of Josh Earnest yesterday over that incident. Has everything become gray for him, David Axelrod?

DA: No, I think everything’s very real to him. And the world is a complex place, Hugh. And the question is how do we achieve the best results? You know, you can’t approach every problem in the world like it’s a nail and the American military is a hammer, and most of the foreign policy experts on both sides that I speak to agree with that. You can’t, for example, I mean, I know there are some, and you may be one of them, I don’t know, who believes that we should just go in with American forces and wipe out ISIS right now. There are, there’s a whole lot of thought on both sides, I was talking to a Republican foreign policy analyst today who said that would be a disaster because of the reaction that it would engender, and that we need the Sunni, our Sunni Arab partners to lead any kind of ground action in that area, because otherwise, you’re going to have a very, very kind of metastasizing situation. So you know, I think that he’s made, you know, certainly when he feels that force is necessary, he has no problem in ordering it. And if you don’t ask me, then ask Osama bin Laden. He’s willing to make those judgments, and I was with him as I wrote about in the book. And by the way, I’m beginning to believe that you’ve read this book.

HH: Oh, have I read this book.

DA: Then you know that I was with him the day before that mission. And you know, he ordered it. It was a very gutsy thing to do. And he was completely calm, because he felt he had made the right decision, and there wasn’t unanimity of opinion within his counsel on it. I think he’s very firm on taking the steps that he thinks are needed to protect America. But he also is, he’s learned some lessons of history, and one of which was that open-ended occupations, open-ended missions with no end game to them often end badly.

HH: You know, I have read the book so closely, David Axelrod, I’ve been going back and rereading the speeches that you don’t reference in whole, some of them like the Jefferson-Jackson Day speech in Iowa is almost reproduced in whole. The race speech after the Reverend Wright tapes is almost reproduced in whole.

DA: Right.

HH: But I am curious, and I was in the hall in 2004, I was broadcasting from the Fleet Center in 2004 when then-candidate Obama gave his amazing speech in 2004 that made his bones. But the question is, is it just a series of speeches? And I go to Page 82 in your book where you write, “Authenticity is an indispensable requirement for any successful candidate, but particularly a candidate for president. Biography is foundational.” And at the end of six years of him, he’s been on the public stage now for ten years, I don’t know that there’s any there there. It’s like Chance the Gardener. What’s at the center of President Obama?

DA: You know, that was a great speech. I remember it really well.

HH: Oh, I’ll bet.

DA: He wrote the speech, and I was kind of blown away by it. And in it, he, for example, told the story of a guy he met in downstate Illinois who had a child who had a chronic illness, something I related to, and the cost of medication was such that he had inadequate insurance. The cost of medication was such that he was going broke. And he was riveted, he was ripped by fear about what was going to happen to his child, and what was going to happen to his family. He talked about that in the context of the need to do something about health reform. And he did do something about health reform. He obviously talked about the war in Iraq, and the need to bring that to a close, and the need to bring definition to the war in Afghanistan. And he did do, we had 180,000 troops on the ground when he became president. He talked about some of the excesses. As I remember, he talked about some of the excesses of our system as it relates to Wall Street. And he brought about some, the most significant 21st Century financial reforms we’ve seen. In fact, one of the things that strikes me about, as I look back, is you know, he talked about climate change. So many of the things that he talked about as a candidate, he’s followed through on. Today, he talked about immigration reform. So I don’t think it’s a matter of whether there’s any there there. I think here’s a guy who has been very consistent in his views, and very methodical about keeping his eye on the horizon line and pursuing the things that he thinks are important for the future of the country. I think there’s a straight line between that speech that he gave 11 years ago in Boston and the way he’s governed and the things he’s accomplished.

HH: How interesting, because I have great, enormous respect for the office of the presidency. I served in the White House Counsel’s office, David Axelrod, and if I ever do get the chance to sit down and talk to the President, I’ll ask this question which I’ll ask you now. You lost the peace, that Iraq had reached a peace. You lost it, and we have ISIS there. You lost the containment of Iran. The world is spinning out of control. And you’re talking about climate change, Mr. President. Where’s the reality check? The left used to talk about the reality-based community, David Axelrod. Has he lost touch with that?

DA: Well, first of all, I don’t, the peace that you’re talking about was not what we encountered when he became president, Hugh. There were, as I said, there were 160,000 troops in Iraq engaged in active combat at the time he became president. He was the one who helped bring about a governing coalition there. That governing coalition unfortunately collapsed because Prime Minister Maliki chose not to honor the notion of a pluralistic country, and sectarianism flared up again and helped propagate what we’ve seen. But yes, it is a challenging, complicated world, and it’s going to be challenging and complicated for any president of the United States. The question is are you willing and are you able to deal with these multi-faceted challenges in a way that makes sense? Or are you going to react, you know, as I said, with the hammer and nail approach to every problem. In terms of climate change, here’s the thing about being president of the United States. And neither you nor I have to worry about it, because we don’t have these responsibilities. You can’t just do one thing, Hugh. There are all kinds of challenges facing this country. And you have to make progress on all of them. The fact that there are challenges in the world doesn’t mean that you can’t, that you’re not going to pay attention to the economy. And he has paid attention to the economy, which is one of the reasons why the American economy is so much stronger than almost all the other developed nations in the world today. And that wasn’t the case in 2009 when he took over. Climate change has, you know, you can, we can, I guess, have the debate about whether it’s real or not, manmade or not.

HH: No debate here. A temperature, a degree increase…

DA: But the science, it’s my point of view that it’s real, that it’s getting worse, and that if we don’t act on it, that the planet is going to be degraded by the end of the century. Well, that may seem like a long time from now, but I just had my first grandchild about four months ago. And I look at that beautiful baby, and she’s going go to be alive then, God willing, and I don’t want to look her in the eye and say you know what, we can only do one thing at a time, so we’re not going to, we didn’t take that on, and I’m really sorry about that.

HH: Well, what do you think will happen if we don’t change? I mean, what’s in David Axelrod’s mind that happens if India and China, because it’s not up to us. It’s up to India and China. You know that. I know that. Even if we could reverse it, what happens in your mind? What do you worry about?

DA: What I worry about are oceans rising. I worry about severe, extreme weather, droughts like we’ve begun to see on a regular basis, wildfires. I worry about, you know, whole communities, American, but also around the world underwater. I worry about what the Defense Department has said they worry about, which is the kind of geopolitical implications of it, and the kind of alienation and violence that is likely to result from the conditions that it will cause.

HH: But you really do, you…

DA: I think it is catastrophic from a million different…

HH: But you really, you honestly…

DA: …from a million different dimensions, Hugh.

HH: You honestly do worry? I mean, you know, you wake up at 3AM in the morning and you say gosh, the storms are bad and the oceans are rising? Do you really worry about it?

DA: I really do worry about it. Yeah, I really do. I turn on the news every night, and I see, you know, stories about extreme weather, and I see the stories about water shortages. I see stories about so many challenges that are resulting from this, and yeah, I worry about it. And you know, I think part of the responsibility when you’re president of the United States is you’re a trustee for the future. And I think this is one of the great threats facing us in the future. And it’s very easy in politics to just deal with the here and now, just deal with the things that are emergent, just deal with the things that are at the top of polls, but that is a disastrous course for the country. We have moved forward, and we’ve had leaders who have been willing to look beyond the here and now, and think about what the challenges of the future are, and we’re willing to meet them.

HH: All right, last question, because I’ve been very…

DA: That’s why I wrote this book, in a way, because I think that’s what politics at its best is about.

HH: Well, I agree, politics at its best is about getting the right solutions and the right people in. You’ve been working for the wrong team. I wish we could convert you. But I want to close by talking about race, because I do believe, and I’ve written about this, the singular achievement of President Obama was one that he referenced to you. Every child in his country believes they can become president because he became president. And that is, it’s a message to the world, it’s a huge achievement. Winning and then winning a second time is about the only thing I can put down to the plus column on what history will record for him. But at one point in your book, you write on Page 258 such an interesting detail. “The press corps, for whom race was the shiniest of objects…” You, working in Chicago, you know the race issue better than anyone. And the President plays it like a violin, and Bill Clinton played the race card in South Carolina. I actually think Republicans are generally clueless about playing race cards, and they’re just not racial. What in the world is this country, six years into the Obama presidency, and we’re paralyzed by race again. Don’t you feel that that’s sort of a failure on your part and your team’s part that six years after the first African-American won, we’re talking about Missouri and we’re talking about the New York City policeman and Mr. Garner, and we’ve got Trayvon, all the different controversies out there, Trayvon Martin? What do you think?

DA: No, I don’t think anybody suggested that the election of the first black president would be a panacea for problems that have existed since the beginning of the republic, that the question of race has dogged American politics and the American society from the beginning of this republic. And it’s been a big theme coursing through our politics since Richard Nixon, since the passage of the Civil Rights legislation in the mid-60s, and Richard Nixon’s strategy to create a Southern bulwark as a reaction to that civil rights legislation. I mean, race has always been an issue in our politics. It’s something that we’ve got in our society, I should say. But I think it’s exacerbated by some of the other things that are, that we have to tackle, which is it is important that these young people think that they can be the president of the United States. That’s an enormous step for our country. But we also have to give them the tools to be everything they can be. And if they don’t, if they aren’t able to get a good education, if they aren’t able to have three square meals a day, if they aren’t able to have the kind of opportunities that other kids have, it’s going to be very, very hard to realize their potential. And you create an environment in which things fester that contribute to tensions. So it’s not just, we should have a dialogue and a discussion about how we reduce these tensions. But we also ought to have an economy and an country in which you’re not limited to, you know, where you’re born does not limit your horizons. And I think that should be a goal. And you know, I’m heartened that so many of the Republicans are now talking about that.

HH: Well, Ben Carson, though…

DA: And not all of them are government programs. It’s also about values, and the President has talked about this a lot.

HH: Oh, you know, wait, wait, wait.

DA: …about the values parents instill…

HH: I worked for Reagan, so we talked about values a lot in 1980-’88, and both Bush’s did. Let me ask you, though, Dr. Ben Carson on this show in November said “I believe that things on race were better before the President was elected. I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race.” And I pressed him on it. I said how can you say that, and he said “well, for instance, in the incident with Henry Louis Gates, Skip Gates, and calling the police, you know, then they’re the one that Trayvon Martin case, you know, if I had a son, this is how he would look like. And you know what’s happened there. And in some way, it really irritates me to some degree the way he and a bunch of progressives manipulate particularly minority communities to make them feel that they are victims.” How do you react to that, David Axelrod, when Ben Carson is calling out the President for making race relations in America worse?

DA: You know, I don’t, first of all, let me say I think Dr. Carson is a great neurosurgeon, and I respect him as a neurosurgeon. I don’t necessarily agree with him in his politics or his analysis, and I suspect many, many African-Americans in this country wouldn’t agree with his analysis. Their experience may have been different than his experience. I don’t know. But all I can say is that he has a point of view, but it isn’t necessarily one that reflects the experience of a lot of people in this country. That is valid. Now to say, you know, it’s interesting, though, because I’ll go on another program, people of a different bent, who’ll complain that the President hasn’t engaged the issue of race nearly enough, they don’t feel that he has talked about it enough. You hear that complaint from some on the left. I strongly reject the notion that he has tried to manipulate the racial issue. And you know, I think he’s been very, in the face of a lot of provocation, he’s been very disciplined about speaking to the entire country on a range of issues. So you know, I know Dr. Carson’s running for president, and I expect that he’ll, you know, I don’t think he’s going to run around the country talking about the president as the loving son of a loving mother. That’s not how he’s going to run. He’s going to be critical. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

HH: Okay, last, you know, there’s one thing that’s not in our book, one name that I’m surprised. Candy Crowley’s name is not in this book, Candy Crowley. Did you work her? Did you have her primed to intervene in the debate?

DA: (pause) Obviously, Hugh, the answer is no.

HH: That was a pause.

DA: You know, I can’t speak, Candy can speak for herself as to what she said, why she said what she said. But I think if you go back and look at that debate from start to finish…

HH: She had the transcript, though.

DA: …Look, in the context of the first debate, which was an utter disaster for us…

HH: Right. But she had the transcript.

DA: The President was very much in control of that debate from start to finish. And you know, a lot has been made on the part of, you know, a lot of Governor Romney’s supporters about what Candy did. I understand what their concern was, but that didn’t define that debate. That debate was, that debate was defined from the minute the opening bell went off right to the end. The President was very dominant in that debate.

HH: Yeah, but take a bow, though. You got her the transcript, didn’t you, of the Rose Garden remarks?

DA: I didn’t get her any, I had no contact with Candy before…

HH: Oh, that’s well said. But did anyone on the team get her the transcript before the debate? She had it right in front of her.

DA: Not to my knowledge, no.

HH: Okay. Last question…

DA: You know what? Let’s give her a little bit of credit. Candy Crowley has been around journalism for decades and decades and decades. I don’t think she needs anybody to help her get a transcript from a White House speech.

HH: I just thought you primed the pump there. You guys are so good. You’re very good. I bow down before the detail here. Very last question. Obviously, I would keep the stinger for the end, David Axelrod. Where was the President on the night Benghazi was going down? I mean, the details. Do you know?

DA: Well, look, I was in Chicago in the campaign, and so I was not with the President that night.

HH: Do you know, though, what he was up to?

DA: My recollection was that he was at the White House.

HH: Yeah, but no specifics as to how he was talking and what he was ordering, because that’s just fascinating to me how he responded or didn’t respond.

DA: I think he met with, I think he was meeting and talking with the national security team throughout that incident. You know, I mean, I know that much, that he was deeply involved in discussions with his national security team throughout the day, as he is in any crisis.

HH: But you were in Chicago. Well, David Axelrod, you’ve been generous with your time. Believer is a terrific book, and as I’ve said…

DA: Well, before you sign off, is it my understanding, my understanding is that we share something in common, and not just a passion for politics, but a birthday. Is that right?

HH: Yes, we do.

DA: Isn’t your birthday coming up next week?

HH: Yes, we do. You are one year older than me, but we share February 22nd, George Washington’s birthday, and you know what the best thing is? When we were little, we got the day off from school every year.

DA: Exactly. Exactly. So there’s some common ground to build on right there. Listen, I really appreciate the opportunity to be with you, and I really do appreciate the fact that you’ve read my book so thoroughly, and the nice things that you’ve said about it.

HH: Oh, it’s terrific.

DA: Pleasure to be with you.

HH: I appreciate you’re going to get me an interview with the President. I like that, Davis. Thank you.

DA: All right, well, that’ll be, you’ll either get that or a card for your birthday.

HH: (laughing) I’ll take the interview. Thank you, David Axelrod.

DA: All right, good being with you.

HH: Terrific book, America, go and read it.

End of interview.

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