July 30, 2004

Barack Obama and Doodlegate

Heard enough about Barack Obama yet? So far, I think it's fair to say that the most negative thing I've read about Obama came at the end of this Atlantic Monthly profile by Ryan Lizza, who wondered if Obama's new-found attention was going to his head:

If there is a knock against Obama, it is that he is perhaps a little too enchanted with all the attention and acclaim. During the Democratic primary campaign he raised eyebrows by sweeping an opponent's wife into an embracea moment captured by a Chicago Tribune reporter. The opponent's staff was sufficiently piqued to complain. And I couldn't help noticing, when we sat down to talk in the dilapidated storefront that houses his Springfield campaign headquarters, that the blue-pen drawing he'd doodled on his newspaper during fundraising calls was a portrait of himself.

Nevertheless, as Lizza points out in a recent entry in The New Republic's convention blog, that wasn't the end of the story.

As he put it,

At the end of today's lunch, a group of reporters gathered around him to shake his hand goodbye. Seeing me, Obama borrowed a pen and started drawing two faces on his newspaper, explaining with a laugh what I had written. One face was a craggy profile that would never be mistaken for him. The other was a frontal view of a man with a narrow face and oversized ears. I instantly recognized it as the drawing on his office desk in Illinois that I had reported--and still insist!--is a self-portrait. "You see a picture of a guy with a long chin and big ears and automatically assume it's me?" he asked. All the reporters, including me, cracked up. No way, he maintained, that's not me. Doodle-gate was successfully defused.

The episode was just a small example of why Obama is obviously headed for big things. Nursing a grievance, however small, with a reporter, he made the point that he was a little irritated, while at the same time making a joke of his annoyance. But he did it without alienating one of his most important constituencies--the press.

His art lesson finished, Obama said his goodbyes and walked out of the room. A reporter turned to me and said, "That man is going to be president."

We can only hope! Amusingly enough, as Lizza points out, Teresa Heinz recently told reporters that Obama will become president--expressing more certainty about Obama's political prospects than about those of her own husband.

Posted by Ed at July 30, 2004 01:16 PM


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