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What It Takes

2:00 PM, Dec 29, 2008 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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What does it take to become president of the United States? The ability to say more or less the same thing, again and again, for two years straight.

Here is Barack Obama to Steve Kroft, in early 2007, on why he should be president:

"We have a narrow window to solve some of the problems that we face. Ten years from now, we may not be in a position to recover the sense of respect around the world that we've lost over the last six years. Certainly, when you look at our energy policy and environment and the prospects of climate change, we've gotta make some decisions right now. And so I feel a sense of urgency for the country."

And here is Obama to Steve Kroft, in late summer 2008, on why he should be president:

"Well, I think that when you think about the challenges we face these are challenges that require us to look forward and not backwards."

Note the skill at which Obama stays on message without saying anything of substance. An extraordinary talent.

What struck me as I watched the 60 Minutes program on Obama last night was not only his unflappability. It was the fact that, for the least experienced president-elect since at least Jimmy Carter, Obama made only one and a half unforced errors throughout the entire long campaign. The first gaffe came in the summer of 2007, when he pledged to meet with the leaders of rogue regimes without precondition. As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, it was a "metastatic gaffe" that trailed Obama for more than a year. Now that he is president, he has quietly dropped the pledge -- an implicit acknowledgment of a mistake.

The half of an unforced error was the Obama campaign's lack of preparedness for the inevitable attack on its candidate's ties to Jeremiah Wright. David Axelrod says here that "We didn't review all of the tapes of Jeremiah Wright as we should have." Translation: We weren't ready. But they knew what was coming. Which is why this counts as only half of an unforced error. The real mistake happened twenty years ago. The real mistake happened when Obama chose Wright as his mentor.

Let me know if I missed any major Obama mistakes during the campaign. I don't think I have.