Barack Obama

BARACK OBAMA….Barack Obama told Tim Russert today that he’s weighing the possibility of running for president in 2008. With that in mind, you might be interested in reading a profile of Obama that Ben Wallace-Wells wrote for us back in 2004. It was a good piece back then and I think it holds up pretty well two years later.

After surveying the rising (and falling) stars of past black politicians, he gets to Obama himself:

Like Wilder, Powell, and Ford, Obama has crafted a way of signaling his political independence: He tells people what they don’t want to hear. At fundraisers on Chicago’s lavish North Side, he tells his wealthy supporters that he’ll hike their taxes. At union halls, he tells the workers that the drain of jobs to India and China is inevitable, and that there’s nothing he can do to prevent it. To inner-city, he says that parents need to turn off their televisions and teach their kids some discipline.

In early October, I watched Obama give a speech and take questions at a forum in downtown Chicago….Obama was measured throughout; he tends to come off as an expert and wonk, an earnest, hopeful policy nerd. A group of older black women asked, humbly, for vague assurances that he would redirect federal housing policy to emphasize low-rise, rather than high-rise, projects ? most housing advocates think low-rise buildings would be easier to police and maintain, and encourage more neighborly interactions.

The grandmas were throwing him a softball, hoping only for a signal that he was open to their concerns, that he would side with the experts. Obama was having none of it. “Low-rise isn’t going to solve all your problems,” Obama said sternly. “I’ve worked in the projects, and, let me tell you, low rise has problems of its own.” The particular lady who had asked the question looked rebuked, and there was a surprised wince in the church: Did he really just say that to a bunch of trapped-in-the-projects grandmas?

The whole thing is worth a read.