Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Barack Obama for US President?

David Mendell, Chicago Tribune:

'As with many political friends and personal confidantes of Sen. Barack Obama, Newton Minnow never thought Tuesday would arrive so soon in his protégé's political career.

For two years, Minnow, a dean of national Democratic Party politics who has counseled such luminaries as Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, had been advising Obama to concentrate on being a solid first-term U.S. senator, to keep his national ambitions in proper perspective.

But while channel surfing on his sofa one Sunday afternoon in September, Newton Minnow spotted Obama on C-SPAN giving a speech to Iowa Democrats, and he immediately altered his thinking.

"I got in touch with Barack right after that and I said, 'You ought to go for it now,'" Minnow said Tuesday. "I saw him and I saw how that crowd reacted to him and I thought, 'I haven't felt this same thing since Jack Kennedy.'"

Minnow is one of a growing number of Democrats, from southern Illinois to Chicago to beyond, who now promise to do whatever they can to usher in an Obama presidency. For Minnow and others close to Obama, the mission at hand is both political and personal: They, too, want to see a change in the country's leadership, and they have come to believe that Obama is the right person at the right moment to pick up that mantle.

Obama said Tuesday that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee as the first initial step in a possible run for the White House.

"Barack is a dear friend and so on a very personal level, I am ecstatic that he has made this decision," said Valerie Jarrett, chief executive of the Habitat Co., a Chicago real estate firm.

"On another level," she added, "as an African-American in this country, to see a man of Barack's qualifications do this, to run and, I believe, be elected president, it is nothing short of a wonderful moment."

Obama is a rather young, freshman senator ... but the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is rather young, and doesn't have a lot of parish experience, something she was criticized for. The last 50-some US presidents have been rich, White men. Nothing wrong with that per se, but perhaps it's time for a change. And perhaps Hillary Clinton would be his running mate.

How has Obama voted? Tom Curry of MSNBC investigated, and determined that Obama is:

Poorly rated by the American Conservative Union

Environment-friendly: voted against a bill that would allow oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, voted to filibuster a bill allowing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Voted against Judge John Roberts for Supreme Court. Said Judge Roberts used his power too often "on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak." Skeptical of his "deepest values" and his "empathy".

Concerned about government treatment of racial minorities: sponsored a bill in Illinois requring police to compile racial statistics for everyone they pulled over. Voted to allow self-government for native Hawaiians.

Supports gradual withdrawal from Iraq.


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