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Jonathan Alter on The Promise, Obama’s first year in office

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

HH: As promised, joined now by Jonathan Alter. Of course you know Jonathan from MSNBC, his column in Newsweek, and you also perhaps have heard him on this program a number of times, especially his interview for his wonderful book, The Defining Moment, which was about FDR’s 100 days. Well, Jonathan has a brand new bestselling book out. It is called The Promise: President Obama, Year One. It is linked at It’s in bookstores everywhere. Jonathan, welcome back, and congratulations. A very impressive effort here.

JA: Hey, thanks a lot, Hugh. I’m really glad to be on your show. I love it.

HH: Well, I’ve got to tell you, I was, I’m stunned by the amount of work that went into this. There’s a lot of reporting here, and beautiful writing, which I’ve been led to expect. But I wonder, what’s the reaction in the White House, because it’s very revealing, and I’m going to urge all conservatives to read this. At the same time, you don’t pull any punches, in some respects, when you suggest to the president he’s got to sort of reconnect with his A game when it comes to communication.

JA: I think that’s right. You know, I haven’t heard anything directly from them. But indirectly, some people think it’s okay. Other people are ticked off about it. So you know, it’s a mixed bag. That’s kind of where I wanted to be. I wasn’t trying to write a puff job or hatchet job. And my feeling is that whatever people might think of my own politics or punditry or whatever, that’s not what I’m doing in this book. I’m just trying to give people more information on which to make their own judgments. More information about the way the president makes decisions, the way his aides interact, and what happened, because there was this kind of Niagara of news, and it went by so fast, that there was a back story, and inside story to almost everything that happened that did not come out at the time, and I found that over and over again. So I wanted to tell people what happened, A, and B, what’s the guy like? What is President Obama like, not just on the basketball court and playing poker, but you know, in a meeting. How does he operate? How does he decide? How does his mind work? And that’s really what I was after.

HH: There’s a lot of incredibly interesting detail here. The decisions about Afghanistan, right up to that moment when he says to General Petraeus in the Oval Office can you get in and out in 18 months. Now I cannot wait to see if Petraeus will confirm or deny that one, Jonathan. You obviously have great sources close to the president here. But that chapter is riveting on that decision matrix, and how that happened, and how he pushed back against the Pentagon. By the way, I don’t think it’s going to, it’s one I’m going to tell my friends to read, because I don’t think it particularly puts him in a great light, but it certainly is riveting.

JA: Well you know, they have not denied it yet. In fact, I mean, the book was only published today, but they’ve had it for a couple of weeks. And I haven’t gotten challenged on any of it. So…and as General, excuse me, Admiral Mullen, when he left the Oval Office after being dressed down by the president, who told him he was exceedingly unhappy with the Pentagon’s conduct in boxing him in, and when I asked the president whether he was jammed by the Pentagon, he said, “I will neither confirm nor deny being jammed by the Pentagon,” which you and I know, Hugh, means that’s basically yeah.

HH: Right.

JA: So anyway, when Mullen left, he described himself as chagrined, and his folks confirmed that this event took place as I described it.

HH: Well, on Page 362, “For months, the military brass tried to box in and manipulate the young Democratic president with no military experience. Finally, he asserted his authority as commander-in-chief to dress down his commanders and impose his will.” I think right there, that book should fly off the shelves to get the inside story on that. But let me tell you what I found most interesting, Jonathan Alter, and that is the thing I don’t like the most in political people, and it’s not, it’s bipartisan, it’s shared on both sides of the aisle, is ingratitude. They just often forget how they end up being who they are. And as you write at Page 157, “Gratitude was one of the few qualities that didn’t come to President Obama naturally. It was learned behavior.” Then, almost a hundred pages later, Page 240, “The combination of the normal neediness of politicians everywhere, Obama’s great stature, and his own shortcomings in showing gratitude led to claims he was taking America’s friends abroad for granted.” He’s got a gratitude gap. I thought that was fascinating.

JA: Well, obviously, you know, I wrote that, and I think it is a problem for him, but it’s not a, I don’t want to overemphasize it, either, because there are occasions, particularly if somebody’s hurting or sick, somebody really needs help, where he’s very gracious and attentive. He’s not a cold guy in any sense, but I think what the psychological point is that because he’s not needy, and he doesn’t need to be stroked, and you know, as one of his top people put it to me, you know, he doesn’t give a you-know-what what people think of him. He really, on some level, he just doesn’t. He’s so secure that way that he doesn’t care. And so…and most politicians that you and I know, Hugh, in both parties, they are really needy individuals. They need that adulation. Obama was wrongly depicted as somebody who like needed these crowds. He actually finds it a chore to be out shaking hands and doing a lot of that kind of thing. So because he’s not needy, he doesn’t really understand at an intuitive level, that members of Congress and people who have supported him for a long time, are needy. And so he understands it abstractly, but it’s not something that he takes to naturally the way a Bill Clinton would, say.

HH: I want to emphasize to this audience especially, you’ll be surprised by some of Jonathan Alter’s conclusions – the most unsentimental man I’ve ever met, one of his advisers said. In another place, Jonathan writes that unsentimental quality could make him seem bloodless in his assessment of situations and people. But I think of him as thin-skinned, Jonathan, as very sensitive to criticism about, and I noticed in your exit interview with him, when he listed all the things he wasn’t getting credit for, you know, this is a tough job. People don’t, you never get credit for being the president until you’re dead. I mean, Harry Truman didn’t get it for thirty years.

JA: Yeah, you know, I think pretty much all these guys, I wouldn’t put him in a super…he’s not touchy in the way that some of these guys are, but you’re right that he was, in that interview, you know, he felt like he hadn’t gotten credit for a lot of the good things he did, because people kind of pocketed the fact, and did not credit to him, that with Ben Bernanke’s help, they prevented another depression. And so he just felt like he had spent all this time in what I call a shovel brigade. That’s Don Regan’s line from the Reagan administration of cleaning up after the elephants after the circus, and that you know, he wanted to do the things that he was interested in. He did get a lot of legislation through, and so was sensitive to this idea that you’d hear sometimes on the left as well as the right that he hadn’t gotten things done.

HH: Yeah, I’m quoting now from Page 428 of Jonathan Alter’s new book, The Promise, “The president couldn’t help it. He was annoyed by the lack of credit for what he’d accomplished. I don’t think people fully appreciate the degree to which, prior to health care, we had twelve straight victories in a row, Obama said. He reeled off six of them – bills he signed that regulated tobacco, cracked down on predatory lenders, reined in credit card companies, expanded national service, financed health insurance for millions more children, banned pay discrimination against women. These are pieces of legislation that in any normal year would be considered huge accomplishments.” Now Jonathan, I’m not going to debate that, but I think there’s any argument that for him to feel that way is really vain, because many of us don’t think those are very significant accomplishments. Does he really believe he was cutting a swathe through American history with credit card legislation?

JA: No, he knew that if he didn’t get health care, and in that interview, he didn’t yet have it, that his first year would be seen as a failure. He knew he had put all his chips on health care. And in that sense, you’ve got to say that he’s, you know, I describe him as kind of a prudent gambler. And what was fascinating to me, and by the way, I don’t think he’s vain. I mean, I think he’s, you know, he’s got this gratitude issue that we’ve discussed, and he can sometimes, you know, freeze people out in a way that is scarier, because he’s not yelling at them, but there’s this image on the right that he’s some kind of preening guy, you know. I do have a picture of him in the book looking at himself in a mirror shortly before he was sworn in, but he’s not one of those guys who’s always like checking his image in a knife.

HH: Well, you do quote him at the National Press Club speech after… “I thought I was excellent, but some people might think I was just very good.”

JA: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

HH: (laughing) So that’s not exactly…

JA: No, he says that. Here’s the thing about that quote. That quote just fascinated me. He says that to Robert Gibbs and Pete Rouse, who is the least known of the big four aides – Axelrod, Emanuel, Jarrett and Rouse. And so I’m trying to introduce people to some of the folks that they don’t know. So he says this to Rouse and Gibbs when he’s in the Senate, and he says it with a kind of a twinkle in his eye, and kind of a smile, He likes to sort of never be quite on the level. You’re not quite sure whether he’s saying something egotistical, or he’s making fun of egotism. And you don’t know, it’s a weird thing that throws people off balance, and is a little bit charming, and a little bit off-putting at the same time. So there’s a complexity here.

HH: When we come back from break, we’re going to keep talking about the character of the president, as well as the events of the first year, all in the book, The Promise, by Jonathan Alter.

– – – –

HH: But I’ve got to ask, Jonathan, when I got the book, I looked in the Index, and I said ah, Saul Alinsky is not in the book. But then I read, and he is in the book. He’s on Page 338. So he didn’t make it…

JA: Yeah, the Index was a bit hurried.

HH: I was wondering if that was the case, if that was a little bit of an oversight. But you don’t, you put him in the same thing as Peter, you know, the management guy.

JA: Peter Drucker.

HH: Peter Drucker and Saul Alinsky.

JA: Yeah, Obama’s much more into Peter Drucker, because remember, Obama actually, you know, he read Saul Alinsky. The guy’s an intellectual, so he reads all these folks. And when he was a community organizer, he actually rejects the Alinsky confrontation model. Remember, in Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky, it was all about confronting power, you know, and being militant and defiant. And that’s just the opposite of Obama’s M.O. It’s just not his approach, as we all know now.

HH: Oh, it’s so interesting. Again, I’ll debate that with you another time. I want to cover the book today. But I think he’s so Alinskyite. I think he’s such a radical when it comes to technique and objectives. But I want to assure people you’ve covered the waterfront in this book in terms of the criticisms of him as well. Did you want to make sure that you responded as you said to Fox Nation, as you call it in here?

JA: You know, I wanted to, as you say, cover the waterfront. I wanted it to be warts and all. I wasn’t interested in covering for him in any way. You know, I just wanted to find out as much as I could, to tell people what he’s like. Now some of my politics do come through, and some of them, I think for you audience, might be surprisingly conservative. So on education, for instance, I was pretty sure before the election that Obama was going to sell out to the teachers unions. And I, for twenty years, have despised the teachers unions and trashed them in Newsweek. And I thought that he was going to just be like every other Democratic president. And instead, he kind of surprised me on that, you know, and he moved with this Race To The Top program that is a direct assault on union power. So I explain some of the issues, I explain the auto bailouts, I explain he didn’t want to own 60% of General Motors, you know, the bank bailouts, obviously a lot about health care and Afghanistan. So I wanted to cover the public and the private, make it substantive but also a good read. That was my goal.

HH: There’s also a fascinating, I’m going to come back and talk about the auto bailout, because I found the detail there fascinating as well. One of the great, as you say, they expected him to, his left wing wanted him to go way left, and he didn’t on banking. And the right wing just simply left him on the GM deal. It’s fascinating. You’ve got this calculation down. But on Page 278, you write, “The danger was that in becoming impossible to avoid, Obama might jump the shark as a cultural phenomenon, across an invisible line from hip to tiresome.” I think he did that a long time ago, but you do put in an argument, very sophisticated, about how you have to say the same thing over and over again, given the fracturing of communication technology.

JA: Yeah, and he has, I think he’s in danger of jumping the shark, But if you look at his personal approval ratings in this recent NBC poll, even though he lost the country on the direction that he was taking the country, and that’s related to the auto bailouts, too, which they thought in the White House everybody would cheer, and it turned out the country had moved right and rejected the auto bailouts, as well as the bank bailouts. So he kind of failed to persuade the country to follow him on the issues. But they like him personally still, and that’s something that I think Republicans are having to confront. There’s a little bit of the Reagan magic there, where there’s this gap between Reagan’s personal approval ratings and people’s view of where he was taking the country. And it’s almost exactly the same in terms of numbers with Obama.

HH: Now when you talk about the car company takeover, the task force was run by this hedge fund guy, Rattner, and by Ron Bloom, as you call him, a banker turned labor negotiator. You’ve got 31 year old Brian Deese in there, all these guys who know nothing about the car companies. I think the key moment in this first year is when he fired the head of GM, and American people said well, presidents don’t get to do that, Jonathan Alter. I think that’s when he lost a lot of the middle.

JA: Well, you know, that’s a very interesting case, and I do suggest that that was a big problem for him, because remember, the big political development was Obama lost independents. And I do think that that firing was much more consequential than they realized at the time, even though Steve Rattner is the one who did the deed. It wasn’t Obama doing it directly. But they felt that GM had burned through so much money that the federal government and taxpayers could not give them more money without a change in management, and the board wouldn’t fire him. They were about to pump in billions more dollars. Now you do have to give them credit. You know, GM just today was in the paper, that they’re going to report profits. Now even if you say that’s a little sketchy accounting, which I think it is, it ended up much better than any of us had reason to believe. And if they had not bailed out GM, if they had liquidation, it’s very, very likely that we would have had another depression, because the way that that would have resonated out through the economy would have been just devastating. And instead of having 10% unemployment, we might have had 15% unemployment or higher. You’ve got to remember, when Obama took office, we were losing 740,000 jobs a month. So if they didn’t have some triage, and at least stop the bleeding, now we’re gaining about 250,000 jobs a month. But unemployment, you know, they have a long way to go before they get back to where they can really bring this number down. It is still, as Mitch McConnell said on Meet the Press right before I was on, on Sunday, you know, 10%. They might call it 9.7, but it’s really 10%. And one of the great failures of their first year is that they were not able to budge that number.

HH: You also include the fairly, I think, accurate prediction that if unemployment, I’m quoting here, was below 7 or 8% and heading lower, Obama would be fine. If it wasn’t, he would be in deep trouble, with steep losses in the midterm elections, an impression of political impotence. You also write, he was expected to be the ace communicator, and a personal narrative would be great, but the struggle in executive leadership, you give him high marks for executive leadership, but lousy communication skills. And Jonathan, I’ve got to ask you, he is terrible in press conferences. Not only does he not do them, he never answers in under ten minutes. What is with that?

JA: The line that you just used to me is one of the ones that I highlight all the time. It shows you’re really, you have a good sense of what’s important in a book, as you fastened on one of my main themes. That’s the big surprise to me. I thought, I think everyone thought he was a silver-tongued orator, and he will ace communications, but he has no experience, and he’s going to be too small for the job. He’s just not, he’s going to be overwhelmed and not an effective manager. And it turned out to be the reverse. He really has struggled to persuade the country. You know, the great political scientist, Richard Neustadt, said that the only real power a president has is to persuade. And Obama could not make the sale on health care and on other issues. He just couldn’t find the right vocabulary, as Valerie Jarrett put it. But when you close that situation room door, or that Oval Office door, he was decisive, he was crisp, he was thoughtful, well-informed, and fit in the chair as president, even if one hates the policies.

– – – –

HH: Jonathan, I’ve got to ask you about a couple of these characters, and congrats on giving people their due, and giving us a look inside some of these folks. Peter Orszag, for example, I did not know about the Princeton summa, about the martial, about the PhD. I just knew about the Congressional Budget Office. But when you talk about him filling up OMB with a bunch of behavioral economists, trained to argue that contrary to conventional economic models, human beings don’t always do what’s in their rational self interest. These thinkers that Orszag brought believed that with the proper government rules and incentives, societies could be dramatically improved. I thought a-ha, this is why I don’t like this administration. They really think we can be manipulated, improved. They are social engineers to their core.

JA: Well, first of all, I just want to thank you for recommending it to your listeners, because this is huge for me that you like the book. So I’m just thrilled. Look, I hit Obama pretty hard for what I call policy mandarins who are around him.

HH: Yes.

JA: He needs more people who have met a payroll, who understand first hand what business is really about. And he has almost none of them, really, in the White House. And it’s a real problem. He doesn’t dislike business. He’s not a socialist. But he has a comfort level with academics which is not entirely healthy. And so…

HH: You also tell some amazing stories. I don’t know if it’s gotten traction yet, but Larry Summers yelling at Christine Roemer, don’t you threaten me, and she yelling back, don’t you bully me. That is not a finely tuned machine on the inside there, Jonathan Alter.

JA: Well you know, they used to call them no-drama Obama, and he still wants that around him, but when you get up where the air is thin, you know, at the highest levels, it gets very rough. There are a lot of sharp elbows. And that particular incident is making news, because Larry Summers, when he was president of Harvard, he was accused of sexism, and saying that women were less able in the sciences. And his departure as president of Harvard, really his firing, was connected to that. And so when Roemer charged sexism as one of the reasons she was being excluded from seeing the president, that was a pretty serious thing, and I think it’s fair to say that Larry is not thrilled that that’s in the book.

HH: Oh, you bet. Bullying is not a charge that he wants, given the circumstances of Harvard. Let me ask you about Mark Lippert. I did not know much about him, great portrait here, and the first senior civilian aide in the White House to report for military service since World War II. I don’t know much about him, but I’m glad to know he’s there. But it doesn’t sound like Jim Jones is really running the NSC, Jonathan Alter.

JA: Well, you know, there was a tendency to run Jones down, and really, I think that’s unfair, too. He is running the NSC, but he runs it on a military, in a military way, where the colonels do the work. So his colonel, who is really doing an awful lot of the work at the NSC, is a guy named Tom Donilon. But it would be wrong, as some armchair pundits have said, to suggest that Jones is out. He’s still very influential with the president, and the most influential cabinet member is clearly Bob Gates.

HH: Oh, yeah, an interesting portrait of him as well. But you know who doesn’t get much ink in The Promise is, we call him Dilbert Gibbs, but it’s Robert Gibbs, obviously. And I don’t know if he was responsible for what you call on Page 276, the “unprecedented campaign against Fox, a footnote, an orchestrated boycott,” was something new. Gibbs has not been to me the most effective. In fact, he’s been terrible, Jonathan Alter. I don’t expect you to say that, but why isn’t he featured more in this book?

JA: Well, a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think he’s been terrible. I think he’s making a terrible mistake right now in insisting that the president hold press conferences. He hasn’t held one in ten months.

HH: I know.

JA: …which is an awfully long time for a president who promises openness. Now it’s true that he’s held three times as many one on one interviews as President Bush did, more than 150 in his first year, so it’s not like he’s hiding out from the press, and that’s one of the reasons why this idea that he’s bound to the teleprompter is one of the stupidest criticisms I’ve ever heard. I mean, this is a guy who does not need the teleprompter, you know, to tell him what to say. He has these unscripted interviews all the time. But I do think they’re making a mistake on the press conferences. I would attribute that, what I consider to be a dumb idea to boycott Fox less to Gibbs than to Anita Dunn, who was the communications director for a while before she went back into private life. And she’s a very capable woman, and usually a very smart advisor, but I think she made a mistake in that case.

– – – –

HH: Foreign policy now, and I’m putting aside a lot of our disagreements, Jonathan, because I want people to get a flavor of the book. We can debate it another time. But you do kind of glide over the Honduran fiasco. But you’re very accurate in talking about the fact that he got into trouble with Great Britain, he got into trouble with Germany, and then particularly with Israel. You write, “This became a particular problem with Israel from the start, as relationship with Netanyahu was strained. The problem was personal. The Israelis, like American Jews during the primaries, simply didn’t trust Obama.” Are they going to be able to repair this? They pulled the rug out from underneath Poland and the Czech Republic. He’s got, it seems, a tendency, well documented in The Promise, to go hard on his friends, and soft on the bad guys.

JA: Well, I don’t think he’s going soft on the bad guys. I just would take issue that he’s killed many more terrorists with predator drones than President Bush did. Now it’s true that the threat level has increased, and also the predator drone technology has improved. But the idea that he doesn’t want to kill the bad guys is just wrong.

HH: I didn’t say that. I said easy like Iran, Chavez, Ortega, the usual suspects.

JA: Well, I don’t think, I mean, you know, he doesn’t, you touched on some of the mistakes that he’s made, but he also did manage to restore America’s prestige in lots of parts of the world where it had been pretty battered in the years past. So again, it’s a mixed record on foreign policy. And you know, I think that he, this gets back to the kind of gratitude issue that we were talking about. He needs to tend to some of these special relationships like with Israel and Great Britain. I’ll tell you a story, Hugh, this is, your audience is hearing it for the very first time, it’s going to go in the next editions of the book when they’re published. It’s not in the book, because I heard it after the book went to bed, which was right after health care was signed, but apparently Bibi Netanyahu was really offended at a picture of Obama talking to him on the phone with his feet up on the desk of the Oval Office. In the Middle East, if you show the soles of your feet, it’s a sign of great disrespect. It’s an insult. And so Netanyahu thought that Obama was insulting him, and actually Obama wasn’t. He puts his feet on the desk all the time in his office, and other offices, but it’s a sign of you know, them not quite getting some of the diplomatic subtleties.

HH: The niceties. I also have to bring up, you’ve got a pretty interesting series of snapshots of Joe Biden here. And you have David Axelrod saying the president really does think Joe Biden is wise. That alarms me, Jonathan.

JA: (laughing)

HH: And you also call Joe Biden an irrepressible Labrador.

JA: I call him a Labrador in the book, in another part of the book. You know, it’s a mixed record with Joe Biden. He was cut out of personnel meetings because he has a big mouth during the transition. He had been secretly advising Hillary Clinton when he was supposedly neutral during the campaign. I think there were a lot of people who thought that his personality is just so different than Obama’s that they wouldn’t get along. But he’s very well connected on the Hill, obviously. He was very helpful in the Senate in getting the president’s legislation through. And he ended up being, playing bad cop with the Pentagon in a way that was quite effective. And Biden is a guy, and this took me a while to understand, because I’ve known him for a long time, where he kind of grows on you. And as sort of annoying as it can be, when you get to know him personally, it’s kind of hard to really dislike him. And the lot of the Republicans will tell you this, too. And he’s not a guy who’s just trying to sort of breeze his way through the homework. He spent his whole career, all those years in the Senate since 1972, studying on that Amtrak trip back to Delaware. And he’s a guy, who particularly on some foreign policy issues, has a real depth of knowledge. I’m not minimizing all the things we like to joke about with Joe Biden. I’m not trying to tell you he’s the greatest heavyweight in the world or anything like that. But I try to paint a more nuanced picture of him.

HH: I think Labrador is perfect. I really do, because I think that’s kind of it. And sometimes, the Labrador chews on the rug.

JA: That’s why I used it.

HH: All right, Jonathan, I want to get to the key here. President Obama, according to the narrative in The Promise, never makes a mistake. In fact, I love you quoting him quoting Mark Wahlberg’s character in The Departed. I’m the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy. And I do not, I think I read this very closely. I don’t see him saying anywhere I screwed up.

JA: Well, first of all, just so we’re clear, I’m the guy who does his job, that line from The Departed, he was using that line in reference to David Plouffe, not to himself.

HH: Right. Oh, okay. I thought he was…

JA: So this is what he likes about David Plouffe. This was on the day after the inauguration, and he was talking to the campaign workers who were in Washington for the inaugural. So he wasn’t talking about himself there. And he’s not, I know that a lot of people on the right think that he’s an egomaniac, but that’s not the way he talks in private. It’s more sort of little trash talking, you know, calling Larry Summers Dr. Kevorkian, they bring in water for a couple of speechwriters, he says why do these guys need water? They haven’t done anything. They don’t deserve water. You know, it’s kind of a towel-snapping thing, maybe a little bit like Bush in some ways. But I don’t, you know, I don’t think that you’re wrong in that he’s very, very reluctant to admit error. And one of his top people told me, and this is also in the book, that he does not recall him admitting a mistake in private. Now he uses public apology the way, and I’m not just talking about in foreign policy, but like saying he screwed up on the Daschle nomination, sort of the way McCain does, because they both know that you get points from the American public if you look humble, you look like you’re saying you screwed up. But I think in his own mind, that’s more of a political gesture than a reflection of his real feelings, although I have to say now there are exceptions, and one that comes to mind is the McChrystal report. And he said later that it was stupid for him to have signed off on the McChrystal report. So he does criticize himself on occasion, and he’s not a, he’s different than some of these other politicians in that he’s not insecure, you know?

HH: Well, that is…when we come back, he doesn’t need social acceptance. I got that message. But as you conclude on Page 344, little by little in the second half of the year, Obama lost much of his connection with the American people. I think a lot of that has to do with the perception of vanity.

– – – –

HH: Jonathan Alter, thank you as well for on publication day, spending an hour with me to talk about The Promise. We have barely touched this, America. There’s an interesting portrait of David Petraeus in here. He doesn’t want to be president. He wants to be Clausewitz or Mahan. There’s a lot of stuff in here, but I want to finish with something I really underlined, Jonathan, on Page 349. “Soaring talk of freedom does nothing to advance the nation’s interests abroad.” You attribute this overarching view to President Obama. And I think combined with the bow to the emperor, which you make light of, and the bow to the Saudi king, and now the Chinese number two, that Americans don’t quite believe that he loves the nature of the country as much as he ought to as president. Does he, is he aware of that?

JA: Well, first of all, on the substance of it, I don’t think it’s true. I mean, I think he really does love America. And he actually, you know, is amazed. At one point, he says, Rahm Emanuel says when the polls are terrible on health care, and Obama had always said I’m feeling lucky, and it looked like they were going to lose, and Rahm Emanuel says are you still feeling lucky? And he says yeah, I’m feeling lucky. My name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I’m sitting here in the Oval Office. And he just has great respect for the American people. I think he has great love of country, so I just dispute the certain kinds of attacks on him for that. He has a different approach.

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