Finally, a new and intriguing anecdote from David Mendell’s biography of the Illinois senator, Obama: From Promise To Power, on page 125-126:
Obama, to be sure, had allies in the black caucus, but he had his share of critics as well. His chief antagonists were Rickey Hendon, who represented a district on the city’s West Side, and Donne Trotter, ho would run against Obama for Congress.
Hendon and other African-American lawmakers from the West Side often found themselves at odds with their South Side brethren, but the rift between Hendon and Obama was particularly acute. Hendon and Trotter would “just give Barack hell,” said Senator Kimberly Lightford, an Obama ally in the black caucus. Hendon, nicknamed “Hollywood,” because he once aspired to produce films, was a flamboyant personality in Springfield, known for his smart-aleck humor and occasionally inappropriate public manner. In one legislative session, the two nemses nearly came to physical blows when Obama, apparently inadvertently, voted against a bill that included funding for a project that assisted Hendon’s district.
Years later, details of the incident remain in the eye of the beholder. Obama supporters say that Obama had stepped away from his seat and asked someone else to vote for him, not an uncommon practice considering the thousands of votes each session. His proxy, however, accidentally voted against his wishes. When Obama asked that the record reflect that he voted the wrong way, Hendon publicly accused Obama of duplicity. Hendon has never been shy about holding back his feelings, and he had a special way of penetrating Obama’s usually smooth exterior. Soon, the two men were shouting at each other on the senate floor. They took their disagreement into a nearby room, and a witness said that Obama had to be physically restrained. Neither man cares to discuss the incident today, but Hendon remains unconvinced of Obama’s explanation that his vote was accidental. Individuals close to the situation say Hendon still believes Obama voted against his project to pacify North Side fiscal conservatives who were leery of some West Side projects. For his part, the rarely reticent Hendon won’t discuss the altercation, except to confirm that it occurred. “I have been advised to leave Barack alone and that is what I am going to do,” Hendon said. “I am going to let things stay in the past. It happened. That’s all I can say. It happened.”
The Los Angeles Times talks about Hendon and Obama shouting on the Senate floor in 2002, but no word of any near-physical altercation.
This anecdote raises a few questions.
1. This book came out last year. No one else has thought this was worthy of mentioning or discussion? Lots of people get angry, and even the best of us have our tempers flare every now and then. But is this incident ignored because the image of a furious Obama, having to be physically restrained, so contrasts the nice guy/secular messiah image we’re seeing in the media?
2. Boy, that quote from Hendon sure sounds like clichéd dialogue from a mob witness from a cop movie, huh? Who “advised him to leave Barack alone”?
3. Any Democrat want to raise John McCain’s alleged “temper issues” after this?
UPDATE: Mendell in a later interview: “According to people I interviewed who were there, they said Obama was ready to throw some punches.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: No less than three readers point out that once again, Obama is suggesting the buck stops elsewhere.