In an article about the upcoming White House transition, the New York Times’ Peter Baker and Jackie Calmes note that John Podesta “has been preparing for the task at the research organization he runs, the Center for American Progress.” The article proceeds to offer this sensational claim: “Mr. Podesta has been mapping out the transition so systematically that he has already written a draft Inaugural Address for Mr. Obama, which he published this summer in a book called ‘The Power of Progress.'”
While this claim makes for an interesting story, it’s not true. A couple key facts:
— The book, which was in the works for over a year and was written with the help of CAP’s in-house progressive historian John Halpin, traces the history and successes of progressive politics in the 20th Century, draws lessons from that history, and then applies those lessons to the big challenges facing the country — the global economy, global warming, and global security. At the end, there is a sample inaugural address written not “for Mr. Obama,” but rather, clearly offered as a literary device to summarize the main arguments in the book.
— The inaugural address was written and submitted to the publisher in March 2008, during a time when Podesta was supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Podesta re-did the introduction to the book — but not the inaugural address — in June when it became clear that Obama would emerge as the nominee.
Baker and Calmes should know better. Obama has been intimately involved in writing many of the most important speeches over the course of his career:
— Prior to his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, Obama “made it clear to his staff that he wanted to create this speech on his own.”
— Obama’s address on race in America in March of this year “wasn’t a speech by committee…Obama wrote the speech himself, working on it for two days and nights,” and staying up until 2 am the night before to finish it.
And yet, despite the record, the New York Times would have the public believe that Obama has already outsourced the most important speech of his career.
John Podesta issued this statement tonight:
While I appreciate Senator McCain’s plug for my book, the Power of Progress, his charge is a complete fabrication. He bases this claim on a New York Times story which distorted and confused a chapter I wrote last spring, for a book that was published this summer, with work I am doing this fall on behalf of Senator Obama.
The inaugural address in the “Power of Progress” was a literary device I used to sum up the arguments in the book. It was completed well in advance of my work for Senator Obama and has nothing to do with the Obama campaign or pre-transiton. No one involved in pre-transition work has written one word of any address inaugural or otherwise.