Having lived in Chicago and having voted for Senator Obama, I grew very leery of the exposure he was receiving since his 2004 speech at the DNC — which occurred BEFORE he was even sworn in as a freshmen senator.
In recent weeks I’ve grown comfortable enough to agree with many people who would bring up Obama as a potential president, only to demur — “it’s too early for him.”
“It is too early,” I’d say, “give it until at least November 8.”
I let out a sigh of relief when he announced his interest in running for the presidency for the first time, last weekend on Meet the Press. (the video’s here if you missed it). Topping that, WSJ reporter John Harwood followed Obama on MTP claiming a former top Clinton Administration aide told him Obama would run and Hillary wouldn’t (thanks for pointing this out, Brad).
Fast forward to this afternoon — a rally for Phil Angelides at USC. The several hundred people gathered on the lawn in front of Doheny Library were as passive as just about every Los Angeles crowd I’ve experienced at even some of the more sensational rock shows. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to emphatically cue the audience — which wasn’t much more than 50% students (campus is emptier on Fridays) — to react to the catchphrases, corruption killer lines and education health care environment saving proposition 87-bombs. Angelides, not surprisingly got little crowd reaction himself, although he did say the right things, but when he began with “only 10 more days” I couldn’t help but complete the sentence in my head “… and I’m done with this shit forever.”
Enter Obama and it WAS like being at a rock show — the blue rope keeping the crowd a good distance from the stage area was trampled camera’s flashed and girls were screaming. Obama had already taken off his suit jacket while listening to Angelides with the sun beating down on him.
For five or ten minutes, Obama recited, pretty much verbatim, the speech he’s given since the 2004 Democratic National Convention (watch) — Villaraigosa almost fell over laughing when Barack pulled the “Yo’ Mama” line and I had to wonder if Mayor Tony ever has time to read the paper, not to mention the dozens of magazines that have re-told the my mom’s from Kansas — that’s where I get my accent from lines over and over.
Just as I was getting concerned about his near-term political future — as in campaigning beyond Illinois state lines — he finally broke through to the next level and addressed the issues facing the country today. He spoke with the vision and hope one would expect and I’m glad he has several months to get to a point where he won’t have to spend five minutes on the same ol’ intro.
He lambasted the Bush administration and touted the values of the California Democratic party and — though he did not say much about the issues at hand (he did mention prop 87) — I definitely noted that he regularly referred to “Phil,” but repeatedly referred to Villaraigosa as simply, “the mayor.” Either Obama is really intimidated by Spanish pronunciation or just felt like putting Tony in his place (see the envious look on Tony V’s face when Barack gets with Speaker of the California Assembly Fabian Nunez
He closed with the hopeful sentiments that things can and will turn around, ending — not ironically — with FDR’s “fear itself” line from his First Inaugural Address.
As Obama got into his car I shook his left hand — he’s a lefty, like Bill Clinton — thanked him and wished him the best. Satisfied, I’m going back to the silent treatment. Don’t wanna jinx the man.
Here are some of my photos from the rally: