Oprah & Friends

By Jennifer Parker

Nov 7, 2008 11:37am

She’s President-Elect Barack Obama’s best-known supporter. Today I talked about the extraordinary 2008 election with Oprah Winfrey. Co-hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show on Fridays are her best friend Gale King, Mark Consuelos, and my wife, Ali Wentworth. If you didn’t catch it, here’s what you missed. –George Stephanopoulos Oprah Winfrey: George Stephanopoulos is the Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News and the host of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." He also happens to be married to Ali Wentworth and he is Skype-ing in from your family room — Ali Wentworth: I see it. Oprah Winfrey:  –in D.C. Ali Wentworth: Cleaned up. Oprah Winfrey: So take it away. Ali Wentworth: Well honey — this by the way is my husband’s worst nightmare. The idea that, this is like a Twilight Zone. The idea that you’re at home with the kids, and I’m on live TV on ABC talking about politics. George Stephanopoulos: It’s all about change! All about change. Ali Wentworth: Alright, so get to those diapers then. So honey, we were not together, you were covering the election when Barack Obama won. I was with our children feeding them nutritiously. But you called it so long ago. I think, last spring. I kept saying to him, ‘What do you think? Is Obama going to win. Is Obama going to win?’  And he said, ‘Yes. He’s going to win.’ Last spring. And I was texting him during the election, like, ‘Really? Absolutely?’ And he was like, ‘Easily, it’s done. Yes.’ Which is so — how did you know, George? George Stephanopoulos: It was more the condition of the country. It’s just very very hard for the incumbent party to hold the White House when the president is so unpopular, when the economy is in such bad shape, and when you’re trying essentially for a third term for the same party. So I thought once Barack got the nomination, I thought unless he really made a huge mistake, over the course of the summer or the fall, then he would almost certainly win. And you know basically from June on, he didn’t make any mistakes. Mark Consuelos: Hey, George. We had dinner together over the summer and I sat next to you and I said, ‘Forgive me for asking you this question.’ And I was nervous. I said, ‘I’m a supporter but I just don’t feel –I feel nervous that  America’s not ready to elect Obama.’ Gale King: Elect Obama or elect a black man? Mark Consuelos: Both. And he said, ‘November Fourth, Obama will be elected president. Please pass the rigatoni.’ Is exactly what he said. George Stephanopoulos: The rigatoni was terrific, by the way. One of the most surprising things to me in this entire election was how little of it was about race. I mean, that was, it was really shocking when you think about the first African American who’s a serious candidate, who has a real serious chance at being president, and most people look way beyond race. We asked about this in our polls and 80 percent of the country said it didn’t matter at all in their vote. Only about 20 percent said that it did. And they kind of slipped. Oprah Winfrey: You know I thought it was interesting too. When the press started talking about the ‘Bradley Effect’ when it happened in California many years ago, I thought well, I think we’re so far beyond that in this country that bringing up the ‘Bradley Effect’ now makes people, you know, gives it an energy and a power that it might not have had. George Stephanopoulos: I think that’s right. It turned out that the ‘Bradley Effect’ might not have even been ‘The Bradley Effect.’ But the best line I’ve heard about that is The New York Times  columnist Tom Friedman. Thomas Friedman, who said in this election, the ‘Bradley Effect’ may have been overwhelmed by the ‘Buffett Elect.’ What he’s talking about is Warren Buffett and what he means there is economy. Oprah Winfrey: Yeah. George Stephanopoulos: The economy for so many people is in such tough shape right now. You saw these numbers this morning. Another 240,000 jobs lost. But they were able to look beyond so many other issues that might have held them back in the past. Mark Consuelos: Hey, George, were you surprised how fast it went? How fast they named him the winner? I mean, weren’t you guys ready for a long night? Oprah Winfrey: I was! Mark Consuelos: I was ready to see that lady in Florida with the eyeliner with the hanging chads. Oprah Winfrey: George, when did you know for sure? George Stephanopoulos: Pennsylvania is a real good one. That was at 8:00pm. But actually even before that, at 7:00pm when the returns started to come in in Virginia. And think about that. The home of the confederacy. The returns started to come in and Obama was winning pretty handily. You knew with a lead there, and then when he won Pennsylvania. And then 20 minutes later when we called the state of Ohio, then it became basically mathematically impossible for McCain to win. McCain’s team just didn’t have any strategy that showed a victory without Ohio and Pennsylvania. Oprah Winfrey: What do you think were the major turning points for both sides, starting with McCain? George Stephanopoulos: With McCain, I think you can go to one day. September 15th of this year. And again he was behind most of the way, but on Sept. 15th, that was about four or five days after this financial crisis, this financial tsunami really hit. And he went out and gave a speech on that Monday and said, ‘The fundamentals of the economy are strong.’ You actually can look at it — on that day he was within two points of Obama in the polls. Three days later he had fallen to seven points behind, then nine points. And it was steady there right up until Election Day. For Obama, I go to way before the election. When you think about, you know he’s such an eloquent speaker, and I think in his case, the campaign is a tale of three speeches. But one that was a long time ago, October 2002, when he was just a state senator. And he came out against the war in Iraq. and remember in the Democratic primaries, that was really the issue he used against all the other major candidates. Then July, 2004, of course when he gave that keynote at the Democratic convention and became an international star. And then finally, this March. Remember in March of this year when he was still in a race against Hillary Clinton and those video tapes of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright came out. Oprah Winfrey: Yeah, the race speech. Let’s come back and talk about that, George. For "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" I can’t wait for that show this week. Oooohhh! More with George when we come back. ****** Oprah Winfrey: George Stephanopoulos Skype-ing from their living room in Washington, DC. Let’s talk about the raking over the coals that Gov. Palin got yesterday. George Stephanopoulos: She had a rough day. There’s been so much in-fighting in the McCain campaign about these clothes that she bought. You know this $150,000 of clothes at Neiman Marcus and what the McCain staffers did basically is unleash. And they said they knew — that they only told Gov. Palin to buy three suits for the convention. Three suits for the campaign. Instead they say she went wild and spent money all over the place. The surprising thing to me is the Republican National Committee is now going to send an accountant up to Alaska to go through all the books and see how much she actually spent. So it was not a fun day. Gale King: But, George, why do you think they’re throwing her under the bus now? Leading up to this campaign, they said she’s a great candidate, she’s qualified to be president if God forbid, something had happened. Now it seems that they are totally dumping on her.  Oprah Winfrey: And if they had won they’d be saying that, she’s be heralded as this — Gale King: We’re now hearing she doesn’t know Africa is a continent. We’re hearing all of these negative things about her that are coming out now. Ali Wentworth: But we though early on that when the McCain, when they announced Sarah Palin as the VP, it felt, I think as a very desperate thing even back then, you know? Oprah Winfrey: Okay let George answer. George Stephanopoulos: Listen, I think so much of this is actually just personal. Because, you’re right. Everything you have to say makes sense It doesn’t make any sense for them to make themselves look like liars and say now she really wasn’t ready to be president. But I think what happened here is that over the course of the couple of months, the people from the McCain camp who worked closely with Gov. Palin, a lot of them, at least, got kind of fed up. They felt that she wasn’t always doing her homework. Some of them. They also felt that one of the McCain staffers was getting blamed for this clothing purchase, which they said, ‘listen, it just wasn’t true, she had nothing to do with it.’ So they were fighting back. And I think their feelings were just rubbed so raw, and they were so emotional about it, they didn’t care about how it would look later. Mark Consuelos: Have we heard the last of Sarah Palin? Is she going to re-emerge in 2012 or 2016? George Stephanopoulos: I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of her. I was actually talking to someone who works in her office up in Alaska, who said that the number of interview requests she has gotten has exceeded the numbers that she got the numbers she got the day after she was picked as vice presidential candidate. I think the William Morris Agency might have called and said they want to sign her up. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s going to be a political force. But she’s got  a chance to be. She’s still very, very popular with some Republicans. Gale King: Will she have a talk show? George Stephanopoulos: Not while she’s governor. And not as long as you’re on the air, Oprah, I don’t think. She’s gonna be — she’s going to go finish her term — you know it’s possible, this Sen. Ted Stevens up in Alaska, even though he’s been convicted on charges just before the election, looks like he may win. But after he wins, he’s probably going to get thrown out of the Senate which means there’s going to be a special election. I wouldn’t be shocked if she runs for the Senate up in Alaska. Oprah Winfrey: Wow. So you heard your wife here say earlier that Obama, that politics will forever be defined by before Obama and after Obama. Have you all discussed this in the — Ali Wentworth: Boudoir? Oprah Winfrey: In the boudoir! And that’s another question. Is that your boudoir talk, talking politics? George Stephanopoulos: Hardly. Ali Wentworth: Hearing me talk about politics doesn’t exactly turn my husband on. Gale King: George, do you think Ali is as funny as we do? George Stephanopoulos: We do, I was loving the video that she just did and she should know that after she left her Barack Obama mannequin at home, Elliott came home for a play date yesterday afternoon and we had three little six-year-olds running through the house, up and down the stairs with Barack Obama hiding him in various rooms. Oprah Winfrey: But do you think that politics will be forever more defined by before and after Obama? George Stephanopoulos: Certainly this century. This is, I think, the most historic presidential elections of our lifetimes. And if you look back, I think this has the potential at least to be on a par with the election of Lincoln in 1860, the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and Ronald Reagan in 1980. One of these elections that has the potential at least to change politics for a generation. Depending on a few things. One, how Barack Obama does as president. But also two facts that really fascinate me about who voted on Tuesday night. Number one, young people voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. The question is will they vote in the next election and the election after that. And secondly, we were talking earlier about race. Just in 1976, 90 percent of voters in this country were white. In Tuesday’s election, that was down to 74 percent. And that’s going to continue to change in our lifetime. We’re just going to continue to become much more of a mosaic in our elections, as well. And I really think we are moving beyond race as a defining factor. but of course, everyone’s going to always remember it was Barack Obama who broke through that barrier. Oprah Winfrey: Well it’s great to be able to talk to you, really great to talk with you, and Ali. I can’t wait to see "This Week." That’s going to be one great show. Thank you so much, we’ll be right back. Ali Wentworth: Elliott has ballet at 4! ************ Oprah Winfrey: So we’re talking about what’s next for President-elect Obama. George, you were there with Bill Clinton and his transition to the White House. What do you think –    Gale King: George I have to say for a second that I saw the War Room on YouTube the other day? You looked like you were twelve! Ali Wentworth: Thanks! George Stephanopoulos: I have a lot more grey hair right now. But no, one think I think the Obama team has learned a lot from some of the mistakes we made early on in the Clinton transition. I think first of all the fact that he chose his chief of staff right away and already has a chief of staff in place, Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Chicago is one sign that he wants to have some order, and discipline, and control. Oprah Winfrey: Yeah a  lot of people call him a pitt-bull. George Stephanopoulos: he is a pitt-bull. But he’s effective. And one of the reasons that President-Elect Obama picked him, as he told friends, is that he knows that Rahm Emanuel has "got his back." And you need someone like that. Mark Consuelos: That’s what a White House Chief of Staff is. George Stephanopoulos: Absolutely. But he also — he knows Capitol Hill, he knows the White House, knows to reach out, knows how to reach out to both parties. So I think it was a wise choice. Gale King: But George, did it surprise you that Rahm didn’t say yes right away. because first it said we’re waiting to hear his answer, he hasn’t decided. I was surprised that we didn’t get a yes, absolutely right away. George Stephanopoulos: It’s hard to say no to a man who’s just won the White House. And I think President-Elect Obama’s been courting Rahm for this job for quite some time. The reason it didn’t surprise me is that this is not a job that Rahm sought. I mean he is in the Congress right now, on track one day possibly to be Speaker of House. Plus, even more important, he’s got three young kids in Chicago. And he knows from having worked in the White House before for seven years for Bill Clinton, what a strain that can put on you. How difficult it can be for a family. So I think he was really weighing that. But I think you know duty won out here. I mean, the President-Elect said, ‘I need you to do this.’ It’s almost impossible to say no. Oprah Winfrey: Well many of you don’t know this but Ali was born and raised in Washington, DC. Her mother was the White House social secretary for Ronald Reagan. Ali Wentworth: The only Democrat in the White House, gotta say that. Oprah Winfrey: You’ve seen a lot of administrations come and go. Ali Wentworth: I have. I passed peanuts to Nixon. But the thing about Washington is that, and George, you’ll probably agree — Oprah Winfrey: But you were saying that, for the first time this is — Ali Wentworth: It’s exciting! I mean, first of all, what has happened, what I see in Washington is that the parties have become really polarized. So when I was growing up, at a dinner party, there would be Republicans, Democrats, journalists. There was a real exchange of ideas. And it’s become so polarized in the city. And I feel like with Barack coming, I can feel it, there’s like a strong pulse in the city that it’s going to come back together again. George Stephanopoulos: But a lot of that is going to be up to him. He’s gonna have to act on that. he did promise during the campaign that he wanted to reach out not only beyond race but beyond parties. he wanted to reach out to Republicans and independents. And I think a lot of people are going to be watching to see if he can make good on that promise as well. Will he have Republicans in the cabinet. Will he maybe reach out and try to create some kind of alliance with John McCain on certain issues. And I think that there is, at least, a chance here for that to happen. But a lot of the responsibility  to make that happen is gonna fall on the president-elect. Mark Consuelos: Hey George you know we’re talking about transition and how President Bush is going to be moving out of the White House. And he made a nice speech yesterday about how he’s going to help. Obviously you’ve met him. What do you think he thinks his legacy’s going to be? George Stephanopoulos: It’s a great question. And first of all, as he was giving that beautiful speech, his dog barney was biting a reporter. But I think that he’s pretty stoic about the fact that right now he’s unpopular with the public. I think he thinks and believes that in the long stretch of history, long after, he says, long after he’s dead, that his decisions in fighting the war on terror and fighting the war in Iraq will be vindicated by history. Even though they were unpopular at the time. I think he believe that some of the actions that he’s taken just in the last month to set up this emergency program on the economy will in the long run of history, look good. And I think he finally takes pride in the choices he made for the Supreme Court and thinks that those Supreme Court justices will reinforce that. Oprah Winfrey: Even as a journalist, i mean, I think all the journalists, and you have handled yourself with such measured restraint even if you knew last spring that Barack Obama was going to win. But didn’t you even on Tuesday night feel a sense of exuberance, George? George Stephanopoulos: It was impossible not to. The moment, again, whatever your politics, Democrat, Republican, independent, this was a major moment, signature moment in American history. This was a country that, you know, we had slaves not too long ago. Only 45 years ago the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. And you know at the very moment when the election was official called at 11:00pm, i was there with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer and I. And Charlie announced it and we all just went silent. And let the moment happen. That was the best way to honor the moment. I also noticed what you noticed Oprah about President-Elect Obama when he came out for his speech. It was the least exuberant speech. Oprah Winfrey: Yes. Absolutely. Gale King: It sounded like he was saying I know we have work to do and I need to do and I need your help. We want to help. Oprah Winfrey: Can’t wait to see you on This Week! Thank you, George. You can spend every Sunday morning with George on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Check your local listings.

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