Thursday, October 09, 2008

I learned something new about Barack Obama

Now I'm not trying to mix myself too much into the whole politics thing, but I just read a Washington Post article that I couldn't resist sharing. It was a feature detailing Obama's early years as a politician at the Illinois statehouse in Springfield. Maybe I'm late arriving to the train because I just say a New York Times article from July 2007 basically about the same thing, but I had just never heard some of the stories from the early years of Barack.

For instance, some could argue he weaseled his way into office:

He had won his seat by challenging the validity of opponents' petition signatures, a tactical move that knocked a popular black incumbent named Alice Palmer off the ballot and allowed Obama to run unopposed. During his first week at the state Capitol, he scheduled a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones (D) to request a heavy workload and coveted committee assignments. Then Obama invited a few other senators out for beers and indicated, Trotter said, "that he had higher places he wanted to be."

He played poker with fat white guys:

Obama folded frequently during the games, preferring to watch the action unfold until he could pounce with the occasional great hand. He filled the long gaps in between by seeking advice from his playing partners about balancing work and family, crafting legislation and aligning with Republicans. Even as Obama routinely took their money, the other players regarded him as naive but genuine. In various capacities, Link, Walsh and Jacobs all considered themselves Obama's mentors.

Obama was never a big drinker, but he faithfully brought along a six-pack of beer and downed a couple. He smoked and pitched in for midnight pizza. The poker game eventually migrated to Link's house and became the one social staple on Obama's schedule. The Committee Meeting, Obama called it -- and the appointment stood for eight years. His poker-mates sometimes teased him for becoming "one of the good ol' boys."

Oh yeah he got in what should be considered a career defining FIGHT with another senator:

The tension between the two men peaked on June 11, 2002, after Hendon made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to preserve funding for a child welfare facility in his district. It was, Hendon remembers, "basically the most emotional speech of my life, and I was pulling out all the stops." Every Republican still voted against him. Every Democrat voted with him -- except Obama and three other members who made up a faction known in Springfield as "liberal row."

Obama and his mentor in the Illinois state senate Emil Jones.

Incensed by those four votes, Hendon walked across the floor and confronted Obama, who explained by saying "something about fiscal responsibility," Hendon recalls. A few minutes later, after Hendon's proposal had lost, Obama stood up and asked to have his previous vote changed to a "Yes" for the record, saying he had misunderstood the legislation. His request was declined, and Hendon stood to criticize Obama for political maneuvering.

Infuriated that Hendon had embarrassed him publicly on the Senate floor, Obama walked over to his rival's seat, witnesses said.

"He leaned over, put his arm on my shoulder real nice and then threatened to kick my ass," Hendon said.

The two men walked out of the chamber into a back room and shoved each other a few times before colleagues broke them apart, Hendon and other witnesses said. Obama and Hendon never talked about the incident with each other again, but they reached an awkward understanding. Hendon stopped teasing Obama; Obama started voting with Hendon more regularly. Hendon now supports Obama for president.

Whether you're planning to vote for the guy or not, I highly recommend reading the entire article. It's a pretty fascinating look into an eight year period of time that clearly molded Obama into the man who is running for President. I found it interesting that in the beginning the article indicates that Barack declined to be interviewed for the story. I wonder what he's hiding.

No comments: