Thursday, October 19, 2006
"Hey! I'm Runnin' for Office!"
Yesterday I was watching MSNBC in my office when I saw a pundit from Newsweek and a local politician raving about the junior senator from my state, Barack Obama. It was refreshing, to say the least, after weeks of negative campaign ads, to hear something good about a candidate for a change. Especially from the aforementioned politician, who LOST to Obama in the last primary election. And especially about a candidate who isn’t a candidate...yet.
Barack Obama has certainly come a long way in a relatively short time. One bestselling book, another one just out and sure to reach the same status, a high-profile, and some would say electrifying, appearance at the last Democratic National Convention, well-attended fundraisers, a highly-publicized and successful trip to Africa. If you get an endorsement from the likes of Oprah before you’re even a candidate, that’s pretty significant! I don’t think there’s any denying that he’s a star. But that was obvious to me from the time I met him, more than two years ago...cue flashback music...
Obama was to participate in a live political forum at my television station with the six other Democratic senatorial primary candidates. The broadcast was scheduled for 7:00pm sharp; when that time arrived, all the other candidates were there, but no Obama, who was apparently stuck in traffic. My fellow publicist and I waited apprehensively in the parking lot, although Obama’s photographer, standing there with us, was pretty blasé. "This happens a lot," he assured us.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, we glimpsed a bobbing head at the opposite end of the parking lot -- as it got closer, we could see that it was Obama, running toward us jauntily with a big smile on his face. I don't know where his car was. As he reached us, he asked (not at all out of breath), "Has it started?" Yes, we told him. "Okay,” he replied, “just tell me where to go.” We took off into the building and down the long corridor, two publicists in black and Obama in his impeccable suit, running side by side with his photographer behind, all of us cracking up. As we reached the studio doors, a newspaper photographer jumped out in front of us and got this photo. Just before Obama went in, he stopped, swiped a hand across his brow, grinned and joked, "Hey! I'm runnin' for office!"
Then he strode into the studio, cool as a cucumber (there was a subtle “Ooooh!” from the audience), and took his place at one end of the stage just as the moderator was introducing the first candidate at the other. The participants sitting closest to him, evidently under his spell, pulled out handkerchiefs and mopped his brow, straightened his tie and smoothed out his suit jacket. By the time the camera reached his end of the row, he looked as if he’d been sitting there calmly all along.
Of course he easily overshadowed everybody in the forum that night. And despite the efforts of his aides to move him along, he stayed afterward to talk to some high school students in the audience. I watched him for more than half an hour, patiently answering their questions with no reporters or photographers present.
Later in the campaign, Obama returned to our station for a press conference. Hounded for his reaction to a family scandal attached to his opponent, he refused to go there. “That’s personal,” he said. “I’d rather talk about the issues.” He took the high road. A road most politicians these days couldn’t find with a Rand-McNally atlas, a compass and a personal tour guide.
Will he be President someday? Here’s hoping.
Posted by Pink Armchair at 8:34 AM