How has the story of Barack Obama evolved since the beginning of this
David Remnick: It’s always useful,
journalistically, to remember the kind of sine curve of defeat and
victory. I remember just a couple of months ago, we ran a cover that had
four panels and Obama in three of them is walking across water in
radiant light like you know, the great biblical figure. And in the
fourth panel, he falls in the water. This is the nadir of the healthcare
debate. It looked like he was quite possibly was going to lose, there
was already talk about how horrible November elections were going to be
for the Democratic party, and then he turns it around. And he won. He
didn’t win a bipartisan victory, by any means. In fact, the main
politicking had to be within the Democratic party to put it over. But
all that said, he won an enormous victory and the momentum of the
presidency changed. How long that will last, will it have any bearing on
what happens in November? Well, as those reports always say, we’ll wait
Question: Has he given up on trying to be
David Remnick: Even though Obama’s
political reflex, his political personality aims toward conciliation,
it’s certainly what made him a political animal as early as law school.
It’s how he got to be the President of the Law Review, by drawing in
conservatives as well as liberals, it’s how he succeeded. He’s not a
fool. He sees reality. He sees the partisan divisiveness in the
Congress. He wants to win. This is not some kind of pie-eyed idealist.
Look at the health care bill, that bill contracted and was shaped over
time in ways he may not have wanted, but he wanted to win. He did not
want to walk out of there a gallant loser. Conciliation is also not a
strategy that will necessarily work with pretty stubborn international
forces. Conciliation, or charm, is not something that’s going to work
with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or any other political force of that like.
also a toughness to him. It’s not toughness that obstreperous and
swaggering, but he’s capable of it.
Recorded on April 9, 2010