Richard Wolffe

Inside Media: Richard Wolffe

June 14, 2009

Guest: Richard Wolffe

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Journalist Richard Wolffe thought the idea of writing a book about presidential candidate Barack Obama was ludicrous. Never mind that the suggestion came from Obama himself.

“I shook my head and told him it was a crazy idea, that it wasn’t sensible,” said Wolffe, the author of “The Renegade: The Making of a President.”

But after talking to others, Wolffe realized that he was the one not being sensible. What followed was a “rolling conversation with Obama, his aides and his friends over the next year or more.”

At the time, Wolffe was also covering the 2008 presidential campaign for Newsweek, but never worried about getting too close to his primary source.

“Journalists have to get close to their sources,” he said. “That’s what source-building is all about. If you’re a crime reporter, you’ve got to get close to the police officers and the detectives who will enrich or break stories for you, and politics is no different.”

The frequent MSNBC political contributor also disputed claims that the press had a “slobbering love affair” with Obama.

“That was not the case,” he said, “and to prove it, I’ve got three words for you: Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

“There was ugly coverage. There was tough coverage. You have to be very selective to think it was all a love story,” he said.

The last time Wolffe saw Obama was earlier this year in the White House. They met for one final interview for “Renegade.”

“He looked really tired and grayer. I think the job is a grind. His friends tell me that he’s always had this restless mind, which I guess is what made him run. That restlessness is finding its channel in these policy challenges now,” he said.

Wolffe also pointed out that while Obama has this image of being cool under fire, he’s always lacked patience.

“What I saw in the Oval Office is someone who could get impatient quicker. But there’s a sort of presidential impatience, which feels different from a candidate’s impatience,” he said. “People are clicking their heels and saluting in a way that they weren’t before,” he added.

Wolffe signed copies of his book following the program.

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