12/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

7 Days: Brazile, Huffington, Reagan & Green on Why Obama Won So Big.

This time "the whole world was watching" was literally true... and they were waving flags, not fingers. Our A+ panel discusses why -- W's uniting influence, O's bottom-up campaign, McCain's dishonor.

7 Days in America Interview with DONNA BRAZILE, November 7, 2008

GREEN: What do you think was the most significant of four factors in Obama's win - W's influence, the economic collapse, Obama's brilliant campaign, McCain's not-so-brilliant campaign?

2008-09-20-airamericalogo.jpgDONNA BRAZILE: President-Elect Obama ignited a movement. He did what rarely is practiced in politics. Rather than build a traditional campaign where you have a campaign manager, a press secretary, a fundraiser and then a group of volunteers, he allowed people to make a decision -where they live, where they work - to get involved in the process: to download their own bumper stickers, to download a list of the active party folks in their neighborhoods, to register new people into the process. He used every campaign event as an organizing meeting: to generate emails, to build a list of potential donors. And he followed up. And he created a buzz outside of the traditional campaign barriers that gave people the tools to get out there and start it by themselves.

GREEN: How can this unique community organizing model continue into his presidency so it's not a traditional presidency either?

BRAZILE: Because those same individuals who took charge and went out there, enlarged the electorate, and got people out will now take his legislative agenda, they will use it to contact other people to put pressure on lawmakers to create the change that they wish to see. Remember, the voters in this country fired the Republican majority in 2006. And the voters - over 52 percent of them - decided that they wanted change. Barack Obama was the architect, but the blueprints were already laid by the voters in 2006. So there's no question that when President Obama decides it's time to remove our troops from Iraq in a very responsible way, and there's a legislative formula, those individuals who now are in touch with Team Obama will be contacted to make those phone calls. So this is not just a traditional "campaign's over with, let's fold the tent, everybody go back home." No. There's another instrument that I'm sure is being created by the Obama people - because they are very strategic, not tactical, which is what happened to the McCain/Palin team - but they are creating this other instrument to keep these people in the loop, to keep them energized throughout the next four years.

GREEN: Some Republicans are saying that they are shocked that Obama would pick a partisan Democrat as chief of staff. Your view?

BRAZILE: Well, I respect Rahm Emanuel, I've known him since he was a fundraiser in the party when I was an organizer, and he's grown immensely in stature, as you well know. He is a sharp knife in the drawer, there's no question, but let me tell you something. When President Obama says "Rahm, we need 218 votes to get this bill through," let's say to get us out of Iraq, you need someone who can go to those Blue Dog Democrats and other Democrats, because he is the architect of the Democratic Majority as well, he can go and get those Democrats. Now he also knows policy, he knows the executive and the legislative branch, and I think he's going to be a strong advocate for change, a strong advocate for Senator Obama...I mean President Obama.

GREEN: Everybody's having a hard time getting used to saying "President Obama."

BRAZILE: It's hard for me personally because I get emotional every time I say it. It's just a moment in history, as you can imagine, where those who marched, those who died, those who could never dream of this day, it is here, and people are just having this moment. Every time I say "President Obama," it's very emotional.

GREEN: People of all races all over the world are jubilant. Like the end of Spartacus, can't everyone say, "We're all African-American!"

BRAZILE: Can you imagine how empowering it is [for this to be] your first election? I went to class on Wednesday, and I asked my students in Georgetown, "Who voted?" And everyone had their hands up. They also said, "and after we heard the results, we ran down to the White House".... They are part of this now. Mark. We grew up - I mean, I'm 48 - but we grew up at a time when young people didn't really know their place in politics, they didn't know if they could have a seat at the table. After this election, they feel like this country, this movement is now theirs. And that is, in my humble opinion, that is the legacy of this campaign season. We have inspired a new generation to take their seats at the table.

Interview audio can be found at


GREEN: Let me ask you two what I asked Donna - what do you think was the largest variable producing Obama's big win?

RON REAGAN: Let me just take the McCain reasons since Donna spoke glowingly of Barack Obama's very well organized campaign. McCain's campaign was, of course, the mirror opposite, poorly organized. But mostly what I think the problem with him was that he was working on two basic themes. One was experience, and the other is honor. on both counts, John McCain failed. When the economic crisis presented itself, experience would've led you to believe that we would've seen a McCain with a steady hand at the tiller, somebody who was going to put aside politics and really get down to the crux of the issue. And instead what we saw was an erratic guy who was trying to play politics with this issue. You know, I'm suspending the campaign, but not really. I'm dropping into Washington to solve the problem, but not really -- that sort of thing. And the other one is honor. John McCain has staked his reputation on his honor and his sense of responsibility to his country throughout his career, really. What we saw instead was a man who was willing to sell his country down the river, you know, for his own ambition's sake. The selection of Palin being the perfect example of that.

GREEN: Arianna, what's your view of the leading reason for Obama's margin being triple Bush's in 2004?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I think one of the key variables is, obviously, George Bush himself and the last eight years. GREEN: He united us. HUFFINGTON: Yeah, they united us and also they made us want to completely break with the past. I mean, there's been such a complete across the board repudiation of these years, not just among Democrats but also among many Republicans. So you had the spectacle of people like Colin Powell and Chris Buckley and Keith Duberstein, the former Chief of Staff of Ronald Reagan, endorsing Obama. That is pretty unprecedented and could not have happened were it not for what George Bush did to America for the last almost eight years. Without that, even with the economic crisis, I don't know if the public would have taken what was presented to them, both by Hillary Clinton and then by the McCain campaign, as a big risk by choosing a young man, relatively, who was a State Senator four years ago.

GREEN: You're the queen of the internet - how big a factor was that in his win?

HUFFINGTON: I don't believe Barack Obama would have been President, would not have even have been the Democratic nominee, were it not for the internet and the brilliant way that he used the internet. Not just to raise money, and therefore defeat Hillary Clinton, but also in this very critical criterion of strength as a candidate.

GREEN: I heard Chris Matthews saying that Obama should have "no retreads" in his change administration. But how's that possible when you need experts who understand Washington and most of them worked for the last Democratic president?

HUFFINGTON: Let's just get the best people here. And the best people, obviously, means the people who will execute the president's vision and his priorities and be loyal to him and his vision. And whether they served with Clinton or are new and nobody has heard of them is secondary.

GREEN: Arianna, what's your view of the near-tie in Minnesota's Senate race involving our friend Al Franken?

HUFFINGTON: You know, this is really, really sad. At the beginning of election night, we thought he was going to win. And in fact I happened to be with various comedians like Bill Maher, Martin Short, Larry David, and they were all joking on which state they were going to pick. Marty Short picked Indiana. So they were all working out their campaign strategies and then, it was really kind of sad when reality sank in and we saw that he might actually not get it. It was such a bold move running for the Senate, he did such an incredible job, and I know it's not over.the recount is withdrawn and won't even start until the middle of the month.

GREEN: With today's unemployment rate nearing 7%, the highest in 14 years, which will obviously crimp some of President-elect Obama's plans, what's your economic crystal ball?

HUFFINGTON: My economic crystal ball is incredibly depressing. I think it's going to be all bad news. And anybody who takes any cheer out of the temporary improvements in the stock market is missing the point of how real and how deep the problems are. That we're real in a deep recession. We'll be lucky if it doesn't become a depression. Nobody ever doubted that Obama is going to be inheriting major crises on all fronts.

GREEN: Good news/bad news - Ron, given how liberal younger voters are about gay marriage, how temporary is the setback of Prop 8 in California?

REAGAN: It is temporary, but one had hoped that we moved far enough that Prop 8 wouldn't have passed. I mean, imagine altering the constitution of your states specifically to disenfranchise people to take their rights away. What happens to the eighteen thousand gay couples who've already been married in California? Are they now suddenly unmarried? Really, there's a mean spirited streak here and it was very depressing to realize that 70% of African Americans in California voted for this proposition.I don't know what kind of cognitive dissonance led them to do that, but it just goes to show you that homophobia is alive and well in some pretty strange places.