David Axelrod on the Bin Laden Joke Obama Never Told

More

The death of Osama Bin Laden brought many revelations -- from quirky discoveries about his personal habits to looming questions about the nation that harbored him. It also drove home something we thought we already knew about President Obama: the man is cool. A few hours before the operation, he'd been able to stand up at the White House Correspondent's Dinner and make cheerful, relaxed quips about his Republican opponents, including a dig at Tim "Hosni" Pawlenty. 

The Ideas Report

As it turns out, Obama's speech writers originally wanted Pawlenty's middle name to be "Bin Laden." But the president nixed the joke, a decision that puzzled everyone, including his former advisor David Axelrod -- until the news broke the next evening. In this conversation with Time magazine's Joe Klein, Axelrod recalls those hours before the Correspondents' Dinner and the death of Bin Laden.

More video from the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In