Thursday, October 19, 2006

Obama mania

You couldn’t miss seeing Barack Obama’s face if you tried this week. He’s promoting his new book, The Audacity of Hope, landing him on the covers of Time, Men’s Vogue and Sojourners Christian magazine. And he was interviewed on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” NBC’s “Today” show, and will appear tonight on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

His media blitz crosses state lines. Two newspaper reporters for Lee Enterprises — Kurt Erickson in Springfield and our former Statehouse bureau chief, Patrick Guinane, who now works in Indianapolis — co-wrote an article about Obama Monday. While Obama campaigned in Indianapolis, his colleague, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, another Illinois Democrat, encouraged the junior senator to run for president in 2008. Durbin had stopped in Springfield to campaign for state treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias, but his thoughts on Obama dominated a few minutes of questioning.

This is all on the heels of numerous reporters following Obama’s every move in Africa and his campaign stops in Iowa last month. (A politician’s trip to Iowa typically breeds a presidential nomination). It’s all quite unbelievable. But out of all the media coverage, one quote sticks out.

Joe Kline’s Time article draws particular attention because it hints that Obama no longer rules out a run for president in 2008. Here’s an excerpt from when Kline asks whether Obama would consider a presidential bid after November 7: “‘When the election is over and my book tour is done, I will think about how I can be most useful to the country and how I can reconcile that with being a good dad and a good husband,’ he says carefully, and then adds, ‘I haven’t completely decided or unraveled that puzzle yet.’”

Kline picked up on Obama’s journey in piecing together that puzzle. He counts about 50 times Obama uses “on the other hand” in his new book. Voters may appreciate how on-the-other-hands show thought and consideration of opposing viewpoints, but Kline suggests voters might want to consider whether they would feel comfortable voting for a presidential candidate who teetered with on-the-other-hands before and after the election.

Obama is 45 years old. He has spent less than two years representing Illinois in the U.S. Senate. Yet, vocal supporters say his inexperience matters less than his ability to engage and unite a diverse electorate that’s yearning for a genuine leader.

In the Capitol press room Monday, Durbin said the time is now. “Those people who are arguing, ‘Well, wait four more years,’ do you think 2,000 more votes cast in the United States Senate are going to make you a better candidate for president? I’m not sure they will.”

Asked why he thinks Obama is the right person for the job, Durbin said, “I have found him to be approachable and very intelligent and trying to find ways to solve problems in practical terms. And I think people like that. They want to move beyond the mendacity of our current political scene and try to find someone who is going to reach out to the other side of the aisle and unite our country and unite the political scene to solve some problems. He has a way about him, and you know it if you’ve covered him and seen him. You just know that his style is a very engaging and comfortable style.”

He added that other senators were “dazzled” by Obama, who had already been launched into stardom by his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention before he was even elected. Yet, Obama didn’t fall into the “small boat full of titanic egos” that makes up the U.S. Senate, Durbin said, and the momentum behind Obama 2008 has continued to grow before it’s even started.

No comments: