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The Audacity of Audaciousness

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An advocate of journalistic freedom, the Sketch faced an unusual situation: David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, gave a speech at the National Press Club, but it was "off the record." Video by Gaby Bruna/washingtonpost.com

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Oh? The question was put to Rob Manuel, dean of Georgetown's School of Continuing Studies. "We are honoring his decision to be off the record," he said.

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To circumvent the off-the-record rules, a Washington Post reporter put on a sandwich board with the messages "unPLOUFFEable" and "what the Plouffe?" and then handed out notebooks and pens to regular citizens who, because they were not reporters, were free to report on the speech. They provided a full account of his nearly 90-minute talk.

On Sarah Palin: "She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall."

On the primary victory over Hillary Clinton: "Really by February 17, mathematically, the night of the Wisconsin primary, it's over. We had to endure 3 1/2 months of pure hell before we secured the nomination."

On the New Hampshire primary: "Our sense was if we won Iowa that would be enough to shoot us past her. . . . We should have found a way to remove the pressure to win."

On the Texas primary: "The biggest mistake I made in this campaign."

On Internet organizing: "We had hundreds of thousands of people who signed up to be rapid responders. So when John McCain's attacking us on Bill Ayers, and other silly issues, those people were sending out the facts."

The crucial moment of the general election: "McCain's suspension of his campaign . . . From that point on, people saw McCain as more unsteady and erratic."

McCain's "celebrity" ad: "We just sat back and said he's doing huge damage to himself with independent women voters. When you coupled Palin to it, it was explosive and really destructive."

Interesting stuff, sure, but nothing newsworthy and nothing out of school. So why did Plouffe have the press removed from the press club?

After the speech, Plouffe again blamed Georgetown. "They wanted to have a candid exchange," he said.

Nearby, a Georgetown event staffer tried to prevent the questioning of Plouffe. "Seriously, this is going to be a scene," she warned. "I really do recommend that you not do this."

Plouffe was whisked away, and the press club was again open to the press.

For a video version of this column and more excerpts of Plouffe's speech, go to http://blog.washingtonpost.com/roughsketch.


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