Rock-Star Puffery for Obama in NY Times: Plus Obama vs. Cosby on Black Fathers
Like rock journalists following Bono, the Times reporters seem utterly fascinated by the minutia of Obama's day, while taking a few potshots at a Bush administration it's already condemned as doomed to perdition in the history books.
Like most presidential candidates, Mr. Obama is developing his executive skills on the fly, and under intense scrutiny. The evolution of his style in recent months suggests he is still finding the right formula as he confronts a challenge that he has not faced in his career: managing a large organization.
The skill will become more important should he win the presidency, and his style is getting added attention as the country absorbs the lessons of President Bush's tenure in the Oval Office. Mr. Bush's critics, including former aides, have portrayed him as too cloistered, too dependent on a small coterie of trusted aides, unable to distinguish between loyalty and competence, and insufficiently willing to adjust course in the face of events that do not unfold the way he expects.
Mr. Obama's circle of advisers takes seriously his "no drama" mandate. It is a point of pride in his campaign that there have been virtually no serious leaks to the news media -- small leaks are immediately investigated -- about internal division or infighting. He is a careful reader of daily newspapers and magazines (titles from Foreign Affairs to Maxim are stocked on his campaign plane). He takes his briefing books -- three-ring binders filled with political memorandums and policy discussions -- to his hotel room or home every night, but aides say how well he reads the materials may depend on what is on ESPN.
The story climaxed with a rare Obama visit to his campaign HQ:
Three days after claiming the nomination, Mr. Obama, who makes infrequent visits to the campaign's Chicago headquarters, offered his gratitude by way of a motivational pep talk.
"I want everybody to catch your breath. Do what you do to get your ya-ya's out -- that's an old '60s expression -- and then understand that coming back we're going to have to work twice as hard as we've been working," Mr. Obama said. "We're going to have to be smarter, we're going to have to be tougher, our game is going to have to be tighter."
Before finishing, he included a self-assessment, adding, "I am going to have to be a better candidate."
Also on Monday was Julie Bosman's "Obama Calls for More Responsibility From Black Fathers," in which Obama is given credit for making critical statements about black fathers in front of a black audience.
Addressing a packed congregation at one of the city's largest black churches, Senator Barack Obama on Sunday invoked his own absent father to deliver a sharp message to black men, saying "we need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't just end at conception."
In an address that was striking for its bluntness and where he chose to give it, Mr. Obama directly addressed one of the most delicate topics confronting black leaders: how much responsibility absent fathers bear for some of the intractable problems afflicting black Americans. Mr. Obama noted that "more than half of all black children live in single-parent households," a number that he said had doubled since his own childhood.
"Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes," Mr. Obama said to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. "They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."
His themes have also been sounded by the comedian Bill Cosby, who has stirred debate among black Americans by bluntly speaking about an epidemic of fatherlessness in African-American families while suggesting that some blacks use racism as a crutch to explain the lack of economic progress.
"Stirred debate" is a benign term for how the Times has dealt with similar comments from Cosby, with reporter Felicia Lee calling them "inflammatory remarks" in May 2004. Yet when Obama says similar things, he's making a brave and positive stand.