Aides: We Didn't Obsess About Obama's Race

By: CBS
By: CBS

(CBS) Not getting obsessed about Barack Obama's race was one of the secrets of the successful campaign to put the first African American in the White House, Obama's closest counselors tell 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft.

The president-elect's four top campaign aides, political advisors David Axelrod and Anita Dunn, campaign manager David Plouffe and press secretary Robert Gibbs, were debriefed by Kroft on election night for a 60 Minutes segment to be broadcast this Sunday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Answering Kroft's question about whether race was a part of planning the campaign, Plouffe replies, "No, honestly, you had to take a leap of faith in the beginning that the people will get by race. And I think the number of meetings we had about race was zero," he says.

Adds Axelrod, "The only time we got involved in a discussion of race was when people asked us about it. It was a fascination of the news media…the political community," he tells Kroft. "But internally, it was not an obsession of ours."

The only time that Obama's race became a campaign issue for them was when the media began playing video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor, excoriating America's treatment of blacks from his pulpit. "That was a terrible weekend," Dunn remembers. "The excerpts were endlessly looped on television." Then, said Axelrod, "[Obama] said 'I'm going to make a speech about race and talk about Jeremiah Wright and the perspective of the larger issue…And either the people will accept it or I won't be president…'"

"As David [Plouffe] says, there wasn't discussion [on whether he should make a racial speech]," remembers Gibbs. And it's a good thing, says Dunn. "If there had been a discussion, we've often joked, probably most of the people in the campaign would have advised against it," she tells Kroft. The speech was crucial believes Plouffe. "It was a moment of real leadership. I think when he gave that race speech in Philadelphia, people saw a president…out of the ashes really, he rose as the candidate," says Plouffe.

Produced by L. Franklin Devine, Michael Radutzky and Andy Court
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