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Barack Hollywood

If Barack Obama isn't careful, a narrative is going to develop - if it isn't developing already - that he is an inflator of flattering claims about himself.

The Los Angeles Times published a story on Sunday calling into question Obama's fictionalized version of events as a community organizer working in the Altgeld Gardens housing project 20 years ago.

Channel 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery followed up with a report also unkind to Obama's claims - including Obama's boast that he sacrificed a high-flying legal career to work for a meager $13,000 a year on the South Side. It turns out he was making $25,000 in the same job two years later, a fact Obama conveniently leaves out even as he continues to this day to tout his noble financial sacrifice. (I didn't make more than $21,000 before my third newspaper job, so I'm not all that impressed.)

Now, I don't want to get ticky-tacky. I'd rather be discussing dueling health-care plans. But the way a candidate presents himself (or herself) does matter - especially if you are Obama and your case for becoming president is based more on faith in things not yet seen than substantive evidence.

In the absence of a meaningful U.S. Senate record - which Obama's strategists and allies think is a wonderful way to avoid getting bogged down by being held to account for actual votes - I suspect Obama's Illinois legislative record will now get the finest-toothed combover than any state senate record in presidential political memory. Hell, the AP has sent out a (not particularly deep) review of the cases he handled in his short stint as a private lawyer. There has to be some record to look at if you want to be president.

The narrative danger for Obama is evidence of a pattern. So now we'll see too if Obama gets a little too much credit for legislation that Emil Jones coordinated for him. (From a 2004 Tribune account: "Perhaps nothing has been more helpful to Obama's Illinois Senate career than his ties to Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who has allowed Obama to take the lead on high-profile legislation and remain neutral, or fade to the background, on thorny issues.")

Meanwhile, Lynn Sweet notes that "Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles."

In fact, a slew of media reports continue to call Obama a constitutional law professor, and I'm not aware of the campaign asking for corrections.

Still, Obama's campaign gets healthy assistance from willing media dupes. For example, the Tribune's Washington, D.C., bureau blog, The Swamp, was so impressed with the Obama campaign's "rapid response" to the Times story that it published it in full - without vetting the claims nor dealing with the substance of the charges.

As several commenters point out, the Obama rebuttal wholly fails to address the issues raised by the Times, and instead is an exercise in spin and misdirection, including at times putting the words of people in the story into the mouth of the newspaper to create the perception of a hatchet job and invalidate the paper's named sources.

Memo to Tribune: Rapid response does not equal honest response.

Heartland Rising
The Obama logo and Springfield announcement speech setting nicely put a Heartland touch on the modest Illinois legislator who, like Abraham Lincoln, rose from the prairie with common sense and a hopeful vision.

In other words, the campaign doesn't want to dwell on the fact that Obama represented Chicago for eight years in the General Assembly and not only continues to live in Chicago, but bases his campaign here.

The Outsiders
Obama says in his stump speech that the public senses that politics has become an insider's game - and his pals Mayor Daley and President Stroger agree.

Axe Man
Chris Matthews played softball with Obama message strategist David Axelrod the other night, gushing that the candidate "does draw on something deeply good about this country."

For his part, Axelrod asserted that Obama will connect with voters who want to "turn the page," "look to the future," "believe again," and "change politics in Washington."

Like every other candidate of the last 30 years has promised to do.

Inkblot Obama
The option on Obama's website is perfect, because he can be anybody you want him to be.

And when Obama says the campaign is about "you," meaning "us," well, that's all fine and good, but someone has got to be president, and it can't be you or us. So it really is about him.

Hollywood Hills
Well, at least Obama has Zach Braff and Jennifer Aniston on his side.

Two Americas
"The gathering in the predominantly black Crenshaw area was part of his effort to build support among African Americans, a mainstay of the Democratic Party," the Los Angeles Times reports. "His only press interview during the California trip, aides said, was with the Los Angeles Sentinel, an African American weekly newspaper. On March 4, he plans to speak in Selma, Ala., at a commemoration of the landmark 1965 voting rights march."

Media Management
Why no other media interviews in L.A.? The New York Times answered that question last week: "Aides to Mr. Obama, loath to let the spotlight on their candidate drift to his wealthy donors or newfound Hollywood ties, declined to discuss [a Hollywood fundraiser] except to say it would be closed to the news media."

Likely also explains why there's suddenly a lot of glowing news stories about Obama's civil rights days in the news while he's in Hollywood dancing with the stars.

Peevish Obama
"Obama has been the subject of almost entirely favorable coverage from the national media, and his aides acknowledge that he's parlayed that new profile into his presidential campaign. But Obama also espouses a new brand of politics aimed at transcending the celebrity obsessions and superficiality promoted by modern 24-hour news cycles," according to Politico's "Obama Casts Peevish Eye On National Media."

So he parlayed his media profile into a presidential campaign, but espouses a new politics that will transcend celebrity obsession and superficiality. Okay. The the "peevish" part is Obama's prickliness that the sweetest media ride in presidential political history still isn't good enough for him. Unless he gets a clue, he'll end up shaving his head and entering rehab in a couple of months.

"He's been the beneficiary of an incredible wave, and he knows that," Axelrod told Politico. "But he also knows there's a level of absurdity in it."

And if and when the media figures that out, the wave just may come crashing down, and Obama may wish he buckled down in the Senate for a few years before doing this. But then, you never know how long the media will be absurd.


More Beachwood Obama coverage:

* The Obama Kool-Aid Report.

* JUST IN: Obama Speaks.

* Lincoln vs. Obama.

* Barack Obama (D-Daley).

* The Trouble With Obama.


Posted on February 21, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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