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Talking Taboo with Obama at 30,000 Feet

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) talks on his cell phone as he boards his campaign plane at Midway Airport en-route to Washington D.C., May 7, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty Images)

Corrected 12:49 p.m.
By Alec MacGillis
PORTLAND, ORE. -- So this is what a presidential candidate in the homestretch toward his party's nomination looks like. Barack Obama, who has generally avoided spending more time than he needs to fraternizing with the reporters and photographers on his tail, last night retreated to the press section of his plane for an unlikely and potentially risky event: an extended game of Taboo.

The game, as some readers may know, is a word-association variation on charades: A player draws a card with a word, name or phrase on it and must then, under time pressure, offer a definition to draw his teammates into identifying the mystery term, but without resorting to five "taboo" words listed on the card. For instance, he or she must define "caboose" without use of the words "little" or "red" or "train."

The game has of late become a pastime of the media pack's "embeds," the twenty-something journalists tasked by the networks and cable news channels to track the candidates for months on end. Several had suggested to campaign aides that the candidate join in, and to the embeds' surprise, early in the long flight from the District to Portland last night, he strolled back and pronounced himself up for the contest, which he said he was new to.

And through two rather long rounds of the game, he proceeded to take pleasure in it -- or at least feign pleasure to gratify the young'uns -- which could either be attributed to his competitive nature or to his higher spirits and sense of relief following Tuesday's primaries. With his red necktie pulled loose, Obama listened intently and shouted out answers as his teammates, campaign staffers, had their turn at providing definitions; he cackled when members of the other team, the embeds and a couple print reporters, suffered the punishment of a loud buzzer whenever they resorted to a taboo word.

And he made a couple sly allusions to the real contest he's been engaged in for well over a year, which his campaign hopes may at long last be drawing to a close. Fifteen minutes in, he asked, "At what point is this game over?" When a reporter answered, "When we win," he retorted with a smile: "That sounds familiar." References to the campaign from the other side were less welcome: one journalist defined "San Francisco" with the clue "Obama said his 'bitter' comments in this place," prompting Obama to mock-complain, "I was here to escape all this."

Such games range off-color at times, and Obama strove to escape without newsmaking damage in that regard. When one campaign aide tried to get Obama and his teammates to identify "G-strings," Obama shouted out "garters" instead, leaving it to his traveling assistant, Reggie Love, to shout out the right answer. When Love described the Gap as "where gay people buy clothes," Obama -- who may or may not have heard the clue right -- shouted out "Abercrombie and Fitch," drawing laughs from the younger players.

Fashion brands aside, Obama showed off an impressive range of knowledge and trivia. He shouted out "Dennis Rodman" correctly at one point, and managed to coax his teammates into identifying "cockatoo" at another. With his team trailing in the second round, he scored several points in a row by getting his teammates to identify, among others, the "X-Files" and Bruce Willis ("he was married to a famous movie actress. He was in 'Moonlighting.'") He was then faced with having to define "revolution" without resorting to "French" or "American." He dug back to his Ivy League education: "Thomas Jefferson called for it to happen every once in a while." When this highbrow clue met with blank stares, he went middlebrow instead, offering that it was also the name of a Beatles song, which did the trick.

After his team won both rounds, Obama reveled in the fact that "Team Obama" had beaten the journalists, "and you guys are professional wordsmiths!"

And on his way back to the front of the plane, he was asked: Was this lengthy sojourn in the rear of the plane a sign of a new general election tone with the fourth estate, to better compete with John McCain and his famously chummy press relations? The Taboo victor's answer came with a poker face: "We're going to be a barrel of laughs. We'll have so much fun."

This item originally reported that Obama offered the name of a "Beatles album," "Revolution," as a clue. "Revolution" is a Beatles song, not an album.

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 9, 2008; 10:05 AM ET
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Next: Clinton, Flying Against the Wind


The DNC with its Shoe-In tactics of selecting Barack Hussein Obama as the candidate from day one has alienated myself and millions like me.

It started with the support of the DNC, its great leader Howard Dean, and Mr. Obama joining hands and IGNORING TWO ENTIRE STATES and 2+ MILLION voters by disqualifying those states from voting democrat. If this isn't see-through politics, I don't know what is!! Mr. Obama should be ashamed that he runs his "holier-than-thou" campaign under the phrase "Not the same old politics". The Obama campaign is the slickest set of same old politics that has hit the landscape in many years. What a farce.

Next, the DNC and some wack-job democrats decide, oh, well we have a number of states select by caucus. This was a sinister plan indeed, since the caucus completely favors the demographics and pre-organization of Barack Hussein Obama's campaign. I myself wasted my time and stood in line to caucus, instead of watching my Son's baseball game, only to find out that the caucus process is so very disorganized and an utter and complete waste of time!! Oh and get this, in my state, the election board sent out Primary ballots, but if you vote for democrat, YOUR PRIMARY VOTE DOESN'T COUNT!! Instead, and this was like a trick, if you're democrat, you HAVE TO CAUCUS to even be able to vote for your candidate. This makes me disgusted of the Democratic Party, I mean really, how much harder can you make it for an American to VOTE? I guess I should be thankful that Howard Dean didn't just strip my state of its entire vote like the DNC did FLA and MI, right? NOT!

Next, Obama does not offer a Universal Healthcare Program. This is one of those issues that is SO IMPORTANT, and yet the DNC, and Obama have still NOT labeled it as being a CORE DEMOCRATIC VALUE. The USA is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that DOES NOT provide a Universal Healthcare Program for its people. This is wrong!!! Congrats to Obama and his health-insurance buddies, they're going to make a lot of profit off of kicking people out of the hospital if he gets elected. This sucks.

And finally, the DNC, the pillow-padding for Obama press, and some distinct, so-called "democratic" members who have high visibility, are trying to FORCE BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA AS THE CANDIDATE, DESPITE NEARLY HALF OF THE VOTING POPULUS(not including FLA and MI) WANTING HILLARY CLINTON AS THE CANDIDATE.


When BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA becomes the democratic candidate, I will vote for either McCain or Nader.
Feel free to join me.

Posted by: Fed Up | May 11, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

He shouldn't play games that the Clinton supporters don't understand. Maybe...."ring around the rosey"....although Bill C. may have that one corvered!

Posted by: b kenneth mcgee | May 11, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

TABOO words the MEDIA does not Mention:

Cheney Energy Bill/
29 new nuclear power plants
Rezko Trial

Quoting Obama: "The American people deserve honest answers. They should know the truth." You know, he's right.

QUESTIONS All of US should be ASKING The MEDIA All Day Every Day ... Every Way We Can: Phone, Fax, email, post, blog ....AND Asking ALL your Congress people/SuperDelegates.


1. WHY isn't THE MEDIA providing ANY NEWS Coverage of The BIGGEST ---ENERGY--- ISSUE/ Decision of our time? i.e. Are WE going to LET Cheney, GE, Westinghouse et al, Build 29 New nuclaear power plants, or Not? Why Should we? Why Shouldn't we?

ANSWER: The TV MEDIA isn't providing any NEWS coverage of one of the BIGGEST ISSUES of our time --- BECAUSE:the BUILDERS of those nuke power plants will be GE, Westinghouse, Excelon Corp. of Illinois, Entergy; 3 Consortiums of nuke industy companies..... .....and .... GE owns NBC/MSNBC, Westinghouse owns CBS ....
PLUS---(GE, 2nd largest corp. on the planet), and Westinghouse --- have $BILLIONS of Adverising $$$ to spend
in EVERY FORM OF MEDIA. they don't own.)

i.e. The NEWS you GET to SEE & HEAR on TV is the "news" GE/Westinghouse et al .... WANT You to SEE and Hear. THEY do NOT want YOU to KNOW Anything about The Cheney Energy Bill.

2. What's the Cheney Energy Bill all about?

ANSWER: The Cheney Energy Bill was passed in 2005 (H.R. 6). McCain Voted FOR it. Obama Voted FOR it. Clinton Voted AGAINST it. i.e. McCain & Obama already SOLD OUT to the nuke industry in 2005.
Clinton did not; will not.

The Cheney Energy Bill decreed that US Taxpayers would REPAY any of the Nuke Building LOANS that DEFAULT. (The Congressional Budget Office rated the risk of default at 50% or greater.).
No new nukes were built for the past 30 years because the banks wouldn't loan the money --- too risky.

Why Should we build nukes?

ANSWER: There is NO Good Reason on earth for US to build nukes. We NEED De-Centralized, Clean, Renewable, INEXPENSIVE New ENERGY Technology. Nukes are NONE OF THE ABOVE. There's PLENTY of excellent NEW Technology that will fill the bill .... given greater INVESTMENT in that NEW Technology.

Why Shouldn't we build nukes?

ANSWER: Nukes are OBSOLETE 70-Year OLD Technology. WE already have a 50 YEAR NIGHTMARE Legacy of MILLIONS of TONS and BILLIONS of Gallons of NUKE WASTE all over the USA in leaking tanks, crumbling buildings, contaminated rivers and groundwater .... just GOOGLE: Rocky Flats Denver Plutonium, and, Hanford WA nuclear waste .... and READ about the NIGHTMARE that = nuke waste.

ALL the Nuke waste dumps are CLOSED. The nuke waste at the 100-Plus nuke reactors we already have --- has been stored ON-SITE for DECADES. All of them represent Terrorist TARGETS of opportunity
& potentially catastrophic accidents waiting to happen.

3. Why isn't the TV MEDIA providing ANY NEWS coverage of the Rezko trial? Why did NONE of the TV MEDIA even mention last week's SENSATIONAL Court Testimony that:

Rezko told two of his associates (2 yrs ago) that the prosecutor in the Rezko case (Patrick Fitzgerald) was going to be fired to stop the criminal prosecution of Rezko.

ANSWER: GE, Westinghouse, et al = the Corporate Controllers of the Corporate-Controlled MEDIA.

They will not be covering any NEWS from the Rezko Trial ---UNTIL--- AFTER Obama gets the Nomination.

The so-called "left wing" AND "right wing" MEDIA have ALL been PUSHING FOR and PROMOTING Obama on TV everyday since last November --- Their GOAL is to get Obama nominated, THEN Start reporting the REAL News/REAL DIRT the FBI has been gathering on Obama, Rezko, Auichi, Alsammarae for more than 4 years.

5. Here's some Words the MEDIA says A LOT: Obama hasn't been VETTED.

QUESTION: WHY hasn't Obama been VETTED? HOW can the "news" MEDIA keep repeating that FACT ... without it ever occurring to them it's THEIR JOB to VET HIM, and, They Haven't Done it?

ANSWER: The NEWS MEDIA'S ----JOB---- isn't to Report the News; not anymore. Their JOB is to Put out WHATEVER Propaganda their Corporation wants to SELL to the American people ... to make MORE MONEY.

ALL the "faux" "journalists/reporters" on MSNBC, et al are now Media "Stars" making $Millions per year to Convince YOU of anything their Corporate Masters WANT you to Believe.

QUESTION: Why hasn't he been VETTED by the Democratic Party Leaders?

ANSWER: MONEY. The Democrat party leaders already KNOW most of the Real News/REAL DIRT the Republican Party will Spring on Obama as soon as he's nominated, but, a whole lot of them are SELL-OUTS to the same Big Corporations that are running McCain&/Obama for President.

Many of the smaller fry ... a whole LOT of the Congress People/SuperDelegates----are already bought and paid for.

Obama Formed HIS Own PAC. The military-industrial complex, insurance companies, drug companies, Wall Street, etc. already put their cash into his PAC --- before he started running. THEN Obama's PAC made a whole lot of "campaign contributions" to a WHOLE LOT of his fellow Congressmen & Senators/SUPERDELEGATES.

i.e. THE FIX was IN --- BEFORE he even started running.

[You have to greatly admire the extreme fortitude, Honesty, and GUTS of ALL the DEMOCRATIC CongressPeople/ SUPERDELEGATES who are STILL Standing AGAINST CHENEY/GE/Westinghouse/their MEDIA

MOST Americans have now RECOGNIZED that the Republican Party is their ENEMY. WE the People Threw a WHOLE LOT of those bums OUT in the 2006 Congressional elections. Millions of us also Screamed, yelled, phoned, wrote, and emailed Congress & WE succeeded in STOPPING the Dubai Ports Deal.

What YOU can do to STOP the Democrat Party SELL-OUTS from giving Obama the nomination and throwing this election to the Republicans:

Phone, fax, email, write, to your Congresspeople & Senators/SUPERDELEGATES:
DEMAND that they VOTE to Nominate CLINTON.

INFORM them that those who SELL OUT the Democratic Party and the Majority of the population of the United States ---- by Voting to nominate the FAKE Obama candidate --- will be duly noted and thrown out of office at the earliest opportunity.

DEMAND that they FAIL to nominate THE Candidate who HAS NOT BEEN VETTED.

Tell them YOU KNOW "The MATH" does NOT
Add Up.

WITH two to five times more MONEY than Clinton, and the FULL SUPPORT of ALL the TV MEDIA ---- Obama is less than 1% ahead in the pledged delegate count and the popular vote count --- Proving beyond any question that CLINTON is BY FAR the Strongest CANDIDATE: BEST PRESIDENT.

Tell them: The ACTUAL number of VOTES cast by INDIVIDUALS - does NOT correspond to the Pledged Delegate TOTALS, or the popular vote TOTALS --- given that; the Cacus states do not even have to report ACTIAL Vote Totals and in many cases Have NOT Reported vote totals; & given the EXTRA Delegates AWARDED in some precincts.

i.e. The "Criteria" by which Obma (Falsely) Claims that Superdelegates voting Clinton in as the nominee .... goes against "the will of the people" and "TAKES the Nomination Away" from him is SPECIOUS and FALSE on its Face, and the SuperDelegates know it.

A. The Pledged delegate count and the popular vote totals are not TRUE Totals reflecting the will of the people. They are drastically SKEWED by the caucus states and the amazing, intricate, Democrat party rules.

The ACTUAL Real PRIMARY Vote Totals ARE a true reflection of the will of the people,
and that WILL = Clinton for President.

B. Obama Does Not HAVE the Nomination;
the SuperDelegates can't TAKE AWAY something Obama does not possess.

Obama has not EARNED or DESERVED the nomination. Clinton EARNED IT: Clinton DESERVES IT.
Clinton WILL WIN.

. ... cut, copy, paste --- use any or all of this message, or write your own .... AND Send to everyone on your email list & ask THEM to email it to everyone on their email list ....

IF Most of the people on your email list ... & their email list .... & their email list .... WILL do that AND Phone, fax, write, email their Congresspeople & Senators .... POST on blogs: Local, State, National --- TV "news", newspapers, radio, colleges --
--WE THE PEOPLE can CHANGE the dastardly direction this election is headed;
GET the Clintons back in the White House;
RE-GAIN Good Government; RE-GAIN a better future for our children and grandchildren;
RE-GAIN the Trust and Respect of the rest of the nations and peoples of OUR WORLD
....... just like WE THE PEOPLE
--STOPPED-- the Dubai Ports deal.

Posted by: elme | May 9, 2008 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Ha! Fresh new candidate. Not a politician. Change to Washington? Love how Barry is wearing jeans now and brining it down to the people by playing Taboo. Give me a break...he is as calculating a politician as anyone. It's still not too late for Oregonians to put some serious doubt into the minds of superdelegates - get those ballots for Hillary cast. She is the only candidate who can take McCain to the mat in November. Obama will shrink as soon as the first 527 group hits him.

By the way...Obama done any interviews with queer publications since the ONE Advocate interview over a year ago? Yeah...didn't think so.

Posted by: Eric | May 9, 2008 7:43 PM | Report abuse

You know, I'll probably get eviscerated for this, but I've gotta say it . . .

Doesn't "where gay people buy clothes" border on inappropriate? It certainly smacks of stereotype. (Full disclosure: I'm a gay guy, and I haven't shopped at Gap in years.)

Yes, I know the journalist is merely reporting someone else's words . . . but if a clue like "something black people like to eat" had been given, you can bet it would not have been used in the story.

I expect a little better from the Washington Post, even in its blogs.

Posted by: NickelJoey | May 9, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The beatles album was "revolver." Obama, his team, and your fact checkers had it wrong.

Posted by: tenantlaw | May 9, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I think McCain's diaper brand is Depends.

Posted by: Terry | May 9, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

What do Lisa Astronaut Lisa Nowak and John McCain have in common? They both crazy and wear the same brand diaper.

Posted by: playa | May 9, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Taboo words:

George Soros, Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, San Fran Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, World Labor Party...

And any, and Everything else "Empty Suit" is the Stooge for!

DIMocrats, You have been HAD!

Posted by: RAT-The | May 9, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

To all the haters....Obama doesn't have to do anything but keep being himself and being Obama....If you don't like then that's tough!!

He doesn't have to sell himself like the little ole' elf does....who sleeps with lobbyists, crooked crimminal, through his handicap wife under the bus for crackhead Cindy McCain, who can't seem to stay out of the rehab! LMAO!! She married McCain dusty ole behind when she was only 25 and he was 55. She looks older than he does...McCain will appoint his conservative judges and the first law on the books that he'll take away is Roe vs Wade and although I don't believe in abortion and has never considered it, I know that the "sisterhood" that follow Billary don't want their rights taken when they claim that they blacks will be treated worse than women under another 4 years of may not be as bad for the blacks who is the MOST Loyal base for the democratic party...women and rural racist white men aren't loyal they are swing voters. I have spoken to a lot of blacks and they are pissed...I have also spoken to a lot of white folks (who did vote for Obama because he couldn't get the nominee with just the black vote) and those white folks are pissed that Hillary would discount their race and pit race against race, social class against social class and gender against gender. This race is definitely going to determine her political future and the future of the DNC...This is a witch hunt against a good candidate just because he is black.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Here is Obama on Puerto Rican TV.

Posted by: Ken | May 9, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

OMG! :-o

And what did "Empty RAT-the" have for breakfast??

lay off the booze, dude.

Posted by: jencm | May 9, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we could get Hillary Clinton to play this game. The Taboo word would be campaign debt.

Posted by: majorteddy | May 9, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Hillary would play this game?

Posted by: LetthemdrinkCrownRoyal | May 9, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Are Rat-the and Edwcorey the same person?

Posted by: oldman&theC | May 9, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Looks like Rat-the andedwcorey are the same person.

Posted by: oldman&theC | May 9, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see what the reaction to Obama's keeping the press at arm's length will be.

The White House press corps has been something of a doormat for President Bush, accepting lack of access, non-answers and even misleading answers to questions for years. But Bush ran in 2000 and 2004 against candidates who were no more anxious to engage with reporters than he was.

Obama is running against a guy who lives off reporters, talks to them for hours, argues with them, likes them. Obama would clearly prefer to do none of these things. It may be that the press will roll over for him as it did for Bush, feeling a need to bend over backwards not to appear to favor a candidate who answers its questions. Or, Obama's preference for stonewalling the press could become an issue, especially since it's one of the few ways he is more like Bush than McCain is. We'll see.

Posted by: Zathras | May 9, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

And what did "Empty Suit" have for breakfast?

Posted by: RAT-The

Wheaties--the breakfast of champions. Did you have a nice bowl of Fruit Loops?

Posted by: edwcorey | May 9, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

OMG! :-o

And what did "Empty Suit" have for breakfast?

Posted by: RAT-The | May 9, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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