Live with George Stephanopoulos and "Mr. Man"
Photo: Associated Press/Morry Gash
Now, Ali Wentworth, Mark Consuelos and Gayle King have been unleashed too! "The producers would always ask us before, 'What do you want to talk about? What's some hot topic?'" Mark says. "I want to talk about the election."
"We will always determine things as 'pre-Obama' and 'post-Obama,'" Ali says. "I truly believe that."
Gayle says her favorite summation of the night Senator Obama became President-elect Obama comes from Time magazine writer Nancy Gibbs. "As he looked out Tuesday night through the bulletproof glass, in a park named for a Civil War general, he had to see the truth on people's faces. We are the ones we've been waiting for, he liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began."
While people all over the world were celebrating with champagne—or Oprah's usual favorite, tequila shots—Oprah says she wasn't in the mood to party that way. "I was sobered by his calmness when he came out," she says. "Because he didn't walk out triumphant. He was humbled and steady."
"No, draped all over," Gayle jokes.
"Was I draped?" Oprah says.
"You were draped!" Mark says.
"I was like, 'That's not Stedman. Who is that?'" Ali says.
Oprah says Stedman was right behind her, but the crowd that night was packed in so closely that no one could move. "Stedman was right up against my butt. If I'd had my hands down, I would have been in this guy's butt," Oprah says. "And also, we were just feeling the love."
When she saw the picture in the newspaper of her and the person she'd dubbed "Mr. Man", Oprah says it was the first time she had actually seen him! Even though Oprah did ask if it was okay to put her arms on him, the crush of the crowd only allowed her to see the side and back of his face.
"Mr. Man" is Sam Perry, a supporter of President-elect Obama's from California. "You were so kind to express concern over my jacket," he says. "This is the jacket, and you'll see there is no mascara."
Sam says his friends were amazed to see him on TV. "I heard you describe the evening as one that was so full of emotion that the crowd was vibrating with a quarter of a million people," he says. "What you may not have felt—or you may have—is that my cell phone right from the very beginning was vibrating with calls that came in from South Africa, that came in from Australia, Pakistan, India, all over the world, Denmark, London, 1,500 people from my home office in Silicon Valley...telling me that I was standing with you. As if I didn't know it!"
"This, by the way, is my husband's worst nightmare. It's like The Twilight Zone," Ali says. "You're at home with the kids, and I'm here on live TV talking about politics."
"This election is all about change," George jokes. "All about change."
"So get to those diapers, then!" Ali says.
But this election was over relatively early, and it was called at 11 p.m. on the east coast. Ali says George assured her Obama would win all the way back in spring. "I kept saying to him, 'What do you think? Is Obama going to win?' And he said, 'Yes.'" she says. "I was texting him during the election, saying, 'Really?' And he said, 'Absolutely. It's done.'"
Mark says at a dinner over the summer, he sat next to George and asked the same question. "He said, 'On November 4, Obama will be elected president. Please pass the rigatoni,'" Mark jokes.
"The rigatoni was terrific, by the way," George says.
George says the really surprising thing about 2008 is that, despite the historic significance of an African-American becoming president, so little about the election had to do with race. "People looked way beyond race," he says. "We asked about it in our polls, and 80 percent said it didn't matter at all in their vote."
During the election season, some in the press discussed the possibility that the "Bradley effect" could cost Obama the election. This theory recalls the 1982 California governor's race. In the polls before that election, Tom Bradley—the African-American mayor of Los Angeles—lead over the white Attorney General George Deukmejian. Yet when the votes were actually counted, Deukmejian won. The Bradley effect explains the differential by theorizing that voters told pollsters they would vote for Bradley in order to mask their racial bias...then actually cast their votes for Deukmejian.
"The best line I've heard about that in this election is by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who said, 'In this election, the Bradley effect may have been overwhelmed by the Buffett effect,'" George says. "What he's talking about is [richest man alive] Warren Buffett. And what he means there is the economy. The economy, for so many people, is in such tough shape right now. ... They were able to look past other issues that might have held them back in the past."
Photos: AP/Wide World Photos
Why would the Republican National Committee throw her under the bus now? "Leading up to this campaign, they've said she's a great candidate, she's qualified to be president if, God forbid, something happened, and now it seems they are totally dumping on her all at once," Gayle says.
George thinks much of backlash against Governor Palin is personal. "I think what happened here is that over the course of the couple of months, the people from the McCain camp who worked very closely with Governor Palin, a lot of them at least, got kind of fed up," he says. "They felt that she wasn't always doing her homework." George also says McCain staffers did not want to take the blame for Governor Palin's clothing expense. "So they were fighting back, and I think their feelings were just rubbed so raw and they were so emotional about it, they didn't care about how it would look later."
Even though her recent press has been negative, George doesn't think we've seen the last of Governor Palin. "She's got a chance. She's still very, very popular," he says. "I wouldn't be shocked if she runs for Senate up in Alaska."
There are two fascinating facts about the voting in this election, George says. The first fact is that young voters turned out in record numbers for Obama. "But the question is, will they vote in the next election?" he says. Second, George says the number of minority voters went up significantly. "Just in 1976, 90 percent of voters in this country were white. In Tuesday's election, that was down to 74 percent." While George thinks those numbers will continue to change, he thinks it will always come back to this election. "I really think we are moving beyond race as a defining factor, but of course, everyone is always going to remember that Barack Obama broke through that barrier."
Photo: AP/Wide World Photos
Although Rahm took some time to accept the position, George says he understands the hesitation. "He's in the Congress right now on track to one day possibly to be Speaker of the House," he says. "Plus, even more important, he's got three young kids in Chicago." But when U.S. Rep. Emanuel chose to accept the position, George says he wasn't surprised. "When the president-elect says, 'I need you to do this,' it's almost impossible to say no."
George says the depolarization of Washington now falls on President-elect Obama's shoulders. "He's going to have to act on that," George says. "He did promise during the campaign that he wanted to reach out, not only beyond race but beyond parties as well; he wanted to reach out to Republicans and independents."
"America needs to be patient with Barack," Ali says. "He has so much mop-up, and there isn't any money to do some of the things he wants to do. Be patient with this president."
As a minority, Mark says President-elect Obama's win changed his perception of what's possible. "There is no more excuse," he says. "We need to be better fathers, better citizens, better everything. It's not like we can't do it."
Oprah says she is inspired by the things to come under President-elect Obama's administration. "When we see those images of people dancing and hugging one other Tuesday night, not just in Grant Park but across the country and the world, we can be sure something meaningful and big, bigger than all of us, has happened."
Watch the video for will.i.am's "It's a New Day."
He says he has supported President-elect Obama since the moment he saw the speech that inspired his first music video. When President-elect Obama took the stage in Chicago to make his acceptance speech, will.i.am says he was moved beyond words. "I thought of all the people who paved the way for that moment," he says.