The man behind President Barack Obama

The man behind President Barack Obama
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By Deborah Grau

David Axelrod, a veteran political consultant, was President Barack Obama’s senior adviser who helped orchestrate two election wins.

With his new book, “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics,” Axelrod chronicles his life in the political arena as a journalist, strategist, husband and father.

Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric sat down with David Axelrod for a candid conversation about everything from working for President Obama, to what Hillary Clinton needs to do if she runs for president in 2016, to the latest firestorm former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has ignited by implying President Obama doesn’t love America.

“I don’t know anybody who has … a deeper feeling about this country than the president. And I don’t know anybody who’s expressed it more eloquently over a long period of time. So I really wrote it off to, frankly, a fading politician trying to light himself on fire and make himself relevant,” says Axelrod of Giuliani’s comments.

Axelrod, who spent time working for and against Hillary Clinton, says her worst opponent, if she decides to run in 2016, may be herself. “I think the greatest challengers she faces are her own challenges … I’ve said many times that Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate in 2007 when she was kind of cloaked in this presumption of inevitability, and therefore very cautious. And she carried her candidacy like a porcelain bowl and didn’t wanna drop it and didn’t venture much.”

If she can “throw off caution and go out there and relate very much to the American people,” she may have a better chance of winning, says Axelrod. “After she lost the Iowa caucuses, she became a much better candidate … she felt freer to be revealing of herself, her own vulnerabilities and struggles, to identify with other people’s struggles. And she became a much more potent candidate. Frighteningly so, if you were on the other side. She needs to be that person.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP candidate for 2016, is making headlines as well. Could he win the nomination for the Republican Party with middle-of-the-road views on issues like gay marriage and immigration? “Jeb Bush is saying, ‘No, I’m gonna stick to my guns on immigration reform, education reform. I’m not gonna pander on some of these hot-button issues,’” says Axelrod.

Axelrod does not see his book as a “tell-all.” Axelrod says, “I decidedly did not write a book to even scores.” Couric asked him what he thought of Leon Panetta’s book “Worthy Fights,” which critiques Obama’s policies. Axelrod admitted, “I was disappointed. His big takeaway line in all his interviews was, ‘Well, he’s more of a law professor than a leader.’ I don't know, Leon wasn’t in the room when I saw the president make a series of decisions, each of which were as unpopular as they were necessary.”

Related: Watch Katie Couric’s interview with Leon Panetta

Axelrod writes in his book, “No other president has seen his citizenship openly and persistently questioned. Never before has the president been interrupted in the middle of a national address by a congressman screaming, ‘You lie.’” When asked whether he believes these things would’ve happened to President Obama had he been white, Axelrod simply replies, “No.”

It’s been nearly three years since Axelrod helped the president get re-elected. Now he is back home in Chicago with his family, living a more quiet life. Axelrod was very honest and hard on himself about the guilt he felt being away from his family.

“I asked my family to make sacrifices that I look back at with sadness, and even a little shame,” he says. “My daughter was quite ill, uncontrolled seizures for 19 years, my two sons were wanting for attention because Susan had to pay such focus on Lauren. And it was tough for my family. And I wasn’t frankly around enough. And I regret that. And when I was writing the book, my son Michael, the middle boy, just had a child, my first grandchild. And I sent him some of the pages that I wrote in this book, and I said, ‘Don’t do to your child what I did to you guys. You know, learn from my mistakes.’ And I hope he does.”

Watch the complete interview below:

 

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