Media Blog

Obama the Celebrity

Here’s an old editorial on Obama’s celebrity status and how he uses it to his advantage in the Senate. The source is a reliable one – Senator Obama’s Senate website:

A year ago this week, Barack Obama became a political rock star.
“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible,” Obama said as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
It was his coming-out party in national politics, cementing his place as a fund-raising attraction for Democrats throughout the country. Six months later he was sworn in as the only black senator in the U.S. Senate amid talk that one day he will run for president.
But Obama knows that such talk is premature. And as an Associated Press story says today in the Daily Herald, a year in the spotlight hasn’t changed Obama’s plan to be a student of the Senate, getting involved in issues, and making sure Illinois residents see that he is working hard.
“I think people wondered if he would continue to be high profile or do what he said he would do – take a back seat as a new senator and as a freshman try to learn more,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “To his credit, he’s done the latter. He could have been on a Sunday morning talk show every weekend. He was smart enough not to do that.”
Yes, he was. In fact, it’s been the state’s senior senator, Dick Durbin, who has received more of the attention (good and bad) as a member of the Senate leadership.
In January, we encouraged Obama to dig into the nitty-gritty of issues important to Illinois residents – and he has done just that so far. We expect that to continue even as his star continues to rise over time.
As AP national writer Sharon Cohen points out, in his first six months on the job, Obama has taken on non-glamorous issues such as modernizing locks and dams along the Mississippi River, getting more money for Illinois highways and creating tax credits for ethanol fueling stations. He’s also hosted town hall meetings throughout the state, including several in the suburbs.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t also have a role outside Illinois. He’s traveling to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan soon as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“It’s been sort of a whirlwind,” Obama said. “Deserved or undeserved, I’ve received a lot of attention and that can translate into political influence . . . I think my colleagues legitimately see me as somebody who has potential but has just arrived.”
That’s clearly the case, and we are pleased to see that Obama keeps his celebrity status in perspective and we expect him to keep his eye on what’s most important – issues important to Illinois.


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