In the summer of 2000, Barry landed in Los Angeles International airport and couldn’t rent a car.
His credit card was declined at the counter because in the months before he had overextended himself while trying to run for a local Congressional district.
He described his loss has a public humiliation. The race was called so fast that he barely had time to drive to the ballroom where his supporters were waiting in order to concede to his opponent.
In an effort to cheer him up, Barry’s friend persuaded him to fly out to Los Angeles, crash in his hotel room, and join him at the party’s upcoming convention.
Barry booked the cheapest flight he could find, and wound up stuck at the car rental counter, until he made a couple of embarrassing calls to finagle his way around his declined credit card situation.
Later, Barry found out at the convention that his pass didn’t allow him to access the main floor, or any of the after parties. It was only good for being in the hallway that encircled the auditorium.
Barry ended up leaving town early, even more deflated than when he arrived. He was broke, and his wife was adamantly opposed to his expensive pursuits in politics, particularly because she was pregnant with their second child and wanted more stability. But he persuaded her to give him one more chance at running for an even bigger office with higher stakes.
This time, it turned out pretty well, because four years later, Senator Barack Obama was back at his party’s convention to deliver the keynote speech.
President Obama told the story of his declined card to former advisor David Axelrod while sitting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House during his final days as president. Here is a transcript and podcast of their conversation.