Obama election set off 'wave after wave of emotion,' columnist says
By Nicole Brooks
Eugene Robinson, right, participates in a discussion at the O’Bannon Institute Friday at Ivy Tech Community College Friday. At left is the moderator of the discussion, H-T Editor Bob Zaltsberg. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
Eugene Robinson, right, laughs at a comment as he prepares to take part in a discussion at the O’Bannon Institute Friday at Ivy Tech Community College. At left is the moderator, H-T Editor Bob Zaltsberg. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
Those at the O’Bannon Institute for Community Service’s discussion with political columnist Eugene Robinson at Ivy Tech Friday got to relive the election of President Barack Obama.
This year’s O’Bannon Institute theme, “A Historic Presidency: The First 100 Days,” and Robinson’s recent Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the election combined to offer a look at how Obama got to the office and how he’s doing so far.
Robinson has been with the Washington Post for 25 years, and is now an associate editor and twice-weekly columnist there. He also appears regularly on MSNBC.
His O’Bannon Institute conversation was moderated by Herald-Times Editor Bob Zaltsberg.
Robinson told the crowded Ivy Tech Student Commons that he knew after the Iowa caucuses that Obama could win the election. He went to John Edwards and Hillary Clinton’s rallies and found them to be well-oiled machines.
“I went to an Obama rally and it was different. It felt more like a movement,” Robinson said.
Robinson said he knew after Super Tuesday that Obama not only could win, but would win. Still, Robinson was unsure until the very end. Sneaking off a television set to call his parents when he heard the election was to be called in Obama’s favor was “just one of the most special moments in my life. It was just wave after wave of emotion.”
The column he wrote just after the election, “Morning in America,” was printed Nov. 6. It took a while to write because, Robinson said, he started crying every few paragraphs. Plus, he had to dash to a TV studio every so often to offer commentary. “We’ve got to take him back to makeup,” staffers groaned.
It is Robinson’s work as a columnist that garnered him the Pulitzer Prize last month.
Robinson gave the audience a peek into the life of a Washington, D.C., columnist when he described how he came to interview Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He wrote a column asking the question, does Geithner get it? — and then got a call the day the piece appeared, wondering if Robinson could come by for an interview.
“Rule No.1: grant the access and you’ll get your side of the story out. I mean, duh.”
Robinson said he doesn’t know who will fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the Supreme Court. “I have a feeling it will probably be a woman,” he said.
Zaltsberg asked Robinson to offer an opinion on Hoosiers in D.C. He called former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton one of the “Washington wise men” in the best tradition. Of Sen. Richard Lugar, Robinson said it’s “hard to imagine him being more highly respected.” Sen. Evan Bayh “may be on that trajectory,” but doesn’t have the “resonance of Lugar or Hamilton.”
Robinson gave brief assessments of Obama’s first 100 days in office. In foreign affairs, he said, Obama’s grade is “incomplete for the semester.” He’s more hopeful major changes are coming in health care as opposed to energy. “I never thought I’d say anything was more complicated than health care, but I think energy is.”
Robinson’s column appears in the Post on Tuesdays and Fridays.