David Axelrod on the Bin Laden Joke Obama Never Told

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.

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Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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