Barack: One of the wrestling matches I'm always having with my staff is getting my kids' events onto the schedule. I have to make sure they understand that's a priority.
Michelle: Now, if people can't get Barack to speak, they're like, "Michelle can come. She seems nice and smart, too." But I can't be gone every night. And I can't do something every Saturday from now until election day—that's when we go to the park or on playdates. It's up to the staff to figure out which Saturday they want me to do something, because there will be just one. My desire is to make sure that my kids are sane, happy, and healthy—which they are.
Oprah: At this point in the campaign, are you excited?
Barack: I think we'll win as long as we stay focused and don't get complacent. We have to continue to work hard. But I want to do more than just win. I want to win in a way that sustains the hopefulness we've carried since the primary. Not engaging in negative attacks, not being dragged into the mud. Steady. That kind of politics is harder, not easier.
Oprah: When you had that guy [a tracker from Barack's opponent's campaign who was following Barack everywhere] in your face every day, how could you not punch him?
Barack: Michelle will tell you that I generally have an even temper.
Michelle: If I had been there, I would've punched him! [Michelle laughs.]
Barack: Initially, I tried to talk with him. I said, "Listen, I don't mind you following me, but please be 15 feet away. I'm on the phone with my wife." He would plant himself in front of our office…
Michelle: …and then chase you into the bathroom.
Barack: Well, he wouldn't actually go into the bathroom. He'd stand outside and watch me come out.
Oprah: God don't like ugly.
Barack: Those slash-and-burn tactics have become the custom in Washington politics. But we will not play that game. People don't want to hear folks shouting at each other and trying to score political points. They want to solve problems. I'm determined to disagree with people without being disagreeable. That's part of the empathy. Empathy doesn't just extend to cute little kids. You have to have empathy when you're talking to some guy who doesn't like black people.
There's a level of viciousness in politics because power is at stake. Fortunately, most of my past mistakes are ones that people already know about. That's one of the nice things about writing a book.