A day and a half before President Barack Obama's second presidential debate in 2012 with Republican opponent Mitt Romney, authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann say, the president had a meltdown in front of his aides, telling them, "I don't know if I can do this."
"He thinks of himself as above the showmanship of politics. 'I'm Barack Obama, I'm, like, above that.' And the combination of a disdain for Romney, disdain for the process, leads him to this horrible place where, 36 hours before the debate, they have to sit down with him and stage what they called an 'intervention,'" Heilemann said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.
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"Three of the top advisers saying, 'Mr. President, you know, you need to embrace this event. What's wrong with you?'
"He sits there and gives a 10-minute soliloquy, a kind of self-deconstruction, as he says . . . 'I'm not wired in the way this is wired. I don't know if I can do this,'" Heilemann continued.
Obama felt that he lacked a "fully flushed-out second-term agenda," Heilemann explained, which "frustrated him."
"What he really felt was important to preserve [were] his achievements from the first term. What he didn't have was a fully flushed-out second-term agenda. And, I think that frustrated him," Heilemann said.
The picture of Obama just before a crucial debate is detailed by Halperin, a political analyst for Time magazine, and Heilemann, a writer for New York magazine, in their new book "Double Down: Game Change 2012," which chronicles the 2012 presidential election.
The book also describes the Romney campaign as it was vetting vice presidential candidates. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on Romney's short list but "wasn't very cooperative" with providing requested information, Halperin said.
"One of the things that is interesting about the vetting story is Gov. Christie didn't think he was likely to be picked. He wasn't very cooperative with the vet," Halperin said.
The authors also described the Romney campaign's reaction to Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, where the actor talked to an empty chair to depict Obama.
"He [Eastwood] said, 'I don't want to give a speech about how great Mitt Romney is. Everyone else is doing that. I want to do something different,'" Halperin said.
"By the time he is halfway through, the Romney campaign is in complete meltdown," he said. "This totally overshadowed the Romney speech."
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