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Barack Obama: Cultural Phenomenon

CHICAGO -- Even when The Fix isn't working, it's hard for him to escape politics.

Take last night as an example. Looking for a break from the wall-to-wall politics of YearlyKos, we found ourselves at Second City -- the famed sketch comedy troupe that has produced the likes of John Belushi, Mike Myers and Bill Murray.

The show? "Between Barack and a Hard Place", featuring a cutout of the Illinois senator's head superimposed over a map of America split between red and blue.

Among the sketches: A woman named "Sillary Tinton" trying to find a hired gun to assassinate Obama. In it, each of the actors proclaimed, "I am Barack Obama," before detailing Obama's appeal to every segment of the population. There was even a love ditty for former Vice President Al Gore that included the line, "I'd like to walk in your carbon footprint." Classic.

We're not going to get overly analytical about the show, other than to say that the very fact there is a show dedicated to Obama shows that he has reached the level of cultural phenomenon.

Ever since his speech to the Democratic convention in 2004, Obama has been on an uninterrupted star trajectory the likes of which we've never witnessed in modern American politics. The more Obama can make himself into a movement rather than just a candidate, the better chance he has of toppling the other celebrity in the race -- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 4, 2007; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: At YearlyKos: Dems Set to Expand Congressional Majorities
Next: Clinton's Tame Session With the Netroots


My name is Elena. To me of 20 years.
I would like to get acquainted with you if you not against.
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Posted by: datindjgi | August 28, 2007 10:04 PM | Report abuse

My name is Elena. To me of 20 years.
I would like to get acquainted with you if you not against.
I Look forward to hear you soon with impatience. Adult Dating[url=]Adult Dating[/url]

Posted by: datindjgi | August 28, 2007 10:04 PM | Report abuse

My name is Elena. To me of 20 years.
I would like to get acquainted with you if you not against.
I Look forward to hear you soon with impatience. Adult Dating[url=]Adult Dating[/url]

Posted by: datindiln | August 27, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I hope we all realize that the best hope our country has is in Barack Obama

Posted by: Ahmed Faried | August 6, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm appealing to all Americans to come out for the wife of our former president who also wants to become president.

Please sign the appeal for her to submit to be screened for early signs of Alzheimers. She seems to have forgotten everything she said before she decided to run for President. Read it with your own eyes.

Posted by: Mike | August 5, 2007 8:20 PM | Report abuse

It Took Me Awhile Put I Finally See Through You Mr Cillyazz,You Continiously Write About Barack Obama Without Checking Your Facts,And I Know You Are Aware Of This.Guess What I'am Not Going To Comment On Your Ignorance,(Are You Old Enough To Be Drafted)

Posted by: Captain-Sky | August 5, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The earlier part was an attempt to cut and paste in 30 sec what I had written in 2 parts before my computer was being turned off by my lovely wife.

Trial Lawyers: I must say I am open to correction since it is not my field. But when it comes to verdicts in lawsuits, the eat a huge chunk of money and leave the patients with barely anything. I recently read that the terms of fee for lawyers is a portion considered ethical for practice which should be a few thousand, if at all. How is 1 million or even 500,000 justified. leave that aside. If they are to be talking about service, please offer a better sound bite. No one can change a darn thing in this system becos most of politicians are lawyers. why would they risk their own kin. It was funny that when someone raised this issue of fees reg trial lawyers, the judge slammed it down saying they wont discuss this issue. If you are a lawyer, you know what I am talking about. I being a physician, thinks there needs to be checks and balances. But it is very diastrous that due to trial lawyers, we practice legal medicine. We order tests becos of fear of unwanted finger pointing. For eg:In some stable patients, We order blood count for every patient on a daily basis even though we can let it off for a few days. why? becos no matter what an excellent doc you are, (life being unpredicatble) if something were to change and patient becomes sick and has unwanted outcome, the lawyers can pounce on you to ask, why did you not order tests. Many times clinical judgement is good but you can never win in court with that argument. Not till now. Another issue reg cost in hospital. For eg: A CT scan in India costs $60 and maybe $30 to interpret. Here its atleast $3000. What a joke. Everything is crazy becos hosp needs to cover for very poor reimbursements. Guess what!! a family clinic visit is like $15 or something where you spend 45 min. Whats happening here. In Europe, the barristers have no influence like here. No fear of lawsuits as you see here. Certainly callousness should be dealt with significantly but not liek you see here. If you want to know the disaster thats setting in, I can write. It breaks my heart to see things being thrown to trash and unfortunately people dont even see it coming. God help us.

Posted by: Paul | August 5, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Paul--A little time reorganising text, paragraph(s) and spelling would make a big difference in readability.

That aside, are you seriously saying that "trial lawyers" (which seems to be some type of code word for "fiendish evil child-eater demons") is the biggest problem with the U.S. healthcare system?

Posted by: roo | August 5, 2007 1:08 AM | Report abuse

EDWARDS PROFILE: All you so called educated bumps, look at Eddy. He is a lawyer and that too trial lawyer and a liar. He is singing a toally diff tune since he never win the fund raising game and knows that he needs to draw BO and HRC down in the money game. He is a true lawyer and a liar. If he cared for the poor. Ask him the question, what percentage did he take from his cases when the fee should only be nominal as to the decency of the court. Instead they eat millions and leave the patient with bare minimum. Secondly, things which are done in secret in the past reveals who a person is.Thats why we know who Hillary is and same about Eddy and his hedge funds. Will he stop taking those contributions. REMEMBER, first every man needs money. But after you get that ALL A PERSON NEEDS IS POWER. Thats what they all want and the the way game is played. Same with Hillary too. OBAMA: I can sense a little bit of decency but I still know deep in a man lies the desire to be admired.But give it to a guy who atleast left a lucrative offer to serve people. Thats why I like BO. He is what He is. HRC is all things to all who can pay her just like hubby Billy. He just needs some extra goodies interms of "personal" favors. All are liars but I cant understand how EDDY blames HRC while he does the same on the other side. If Eddy could raise 50 million thru fund raising, boy he would never even sing this tune about lobbyists. WHO IS HE TRYING TO FOOL> EVIDENTLY THE EDUCATED IDIOTS IN THE PULPIT AT KOS. When a candidate says a contorted thing, smart folks should ask the tough questions about their contrasting actions. I HATE LOBBYISTS AND I HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW.Why is lobbying an issue now?. BO took up the matter and EDDY now realizes this is an issue coz ppl started talking about it. Thats why he returned some cash which he knew will get him in trouble. Not becos he wanted to, he had to. HRC is smart enuff to think she can win cos ALL ESTABLISHMENT WILL VOTE FOR HER and there is nothing you / I can do about it. Simple ppl like us can rise up and make a diff and lets make a decent guy come in as OUR PRESIDENT.I hope people have the guts and strength to put a new face and fresh air like BO. I am also glad that folks asked BO about his liquid coal vote.
But one must also understand, b/n OIL from mid east and liquid coal, I prefer US stuff if we plan not to rely on Mid east. Thats the only reason. Remember, when you talk with so much rhetoric, its vital to have a feasible plan. I hope thats why BO thought of coal as a temp solution. KOS FOLKS rise up and challenge me or at least challenge the candidates, esp HILL and EDDY who seem to be singing diff tunes each time. Ask EDDY about policy on tort reform. Not a single person in DNC will rise up against the trial lawyers cos they make up more than half of the contributions. I guarantee you, the health system is destined for a collapse here. Nationalised system will work in all countries becos there is no trial lawyer dictating terms. I can categorically say this since I am a physician who has practiced medicine in US and abroad. I want everyone to be covered but with no trial lawyers dictating terms. You will see the diference. I am active in politics despite the fact I cannot vote. I hope you all can put BO in office and get these candidates to be free and EXPOSE them. Cheers.

Posted by: Paul | August 4, 2007 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants to make Americans pride of themselves again. No wonders Americans who travel overseas claimed to be BRITISH nationals. What a SHAME!
How can you believe the same media who sold us the war in Iraq, or Nadra Pickler from Associated Press who falsely wrote that "Obama is going to INVADE Pakistan" and the Left and Right believe it?
Wake up people, things need to change.

Posted by: Don | August 4, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

To say that Obama is being handled with kit gloves is ridiculous. He's getting just as much flak (remember "flack") as any other candidate. Now the fact that many of the criticisms are quickly addressed and often found to be derived from comments taken grossly out of context (sex ed.) or are found to be completely fabricated (madrassa), to me, seems to indicate that he's actually a decent person with sense and judgment .

Posted by: seh | August 4, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

So why does Hillary keep improving in the polls, and Obama is stalling? He doesn't actually appeal to every slice of Americans. He has double the unfavorables among Democrats than Hillary Clinton. The press just avoids reporting any of his flubs so he comes off better than he is. Let me ask you Chris, what do you think about a President walking the picket line with a union? Do you think that is appropriate? Why won't the media vet this guy at all? He's like a walking Oprah's list novel.

Posted by: Melanie | August 4, 2007 9:38 PM | Report abuse


Totally agree. We absolutely can't have a president who acts without truly thinking through all the issues and their implications. A leader who failed to do that might, well, get us involved in policing a civil war in the Middle East. We certainly wouldn't want that.

Posted by: THS | August 4, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: yiannis | August 4, 2007 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Patrick is wrong. the people in Illinois are still huge supporters of Obama.
I live outside Chicago and my sister lives in the city. We have not met anyone who doesn't like this guy. and we also know what a skilled politician he is and someone with a rare ability to unite many factions.
What passes for experience with msm is not real experience. Hillary was a first lady and that is not experience.
But, worse is the fact that Hillary has proven time and again she totally lacks good judgement.
And, Obama has exhibited he has very good judgement.
In the end, I think this is what counts the most.

Posted by: vwcat | August 4, 2007 7:35 PM | Report abuse

It'd be interesting to see who was behind getting this show at Second City off the Ground, the connection may or may not be local. Any major contender for the presidency is a natural target for comedy.

If I had to vote today I'd go with Obama, however there is one local issue with Obama that I have not been able to get past. It was his rather proactive support for machine/family candidate for Cook County ($3 billion dollar budget) President, John Stroger. He sacrificed principles to support machine candidate in exchange for his presidential ambitions. I cannot help but reframe his "i have not been in Washing ton that long, but long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change" to the equally relevant comment a newcomer to Chicago could make, "i have not been in Chicago that long, but long enough to know that the ways of Chicago MUST CHANGE" Stroger is a disaster, and 80% of Chicago democrats would agree!

Posted by: tim chicago | August 4, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I notice that most Obama detractors on this site (and in the world at large) rarely go into greater detail than to say "he's naive / inexperienced / overly ambitious" without backing it up with either fact or analysis. Of course, there are always those who say "because he has so far been unsuccessful in changing the world" (either on the national or Illinois state level) "he is a fraud and not to be trusted." This ignores the down and dirty nature of both Illinois state and national politics. He does not have as much experience in either under his belt as most of the other candidates, although with national and state time put together, he has MORE than either Edwards or Hillary... and a look at the NY Times feature on Obama's time in the Illinois State House reveals a skilled politician aware of and determined to do - diplomatically - what is possible, while at the same time not losing sight of his goal and his ideals. When someone provides evidence of his having made a STUPID decision - and NB: his recent statement on Pakistan and al Qaeda is FAR from stupid, when read completely and understood in context - or provides proof of his having violated the law, I'll listen. All I have heard so far is whining from those who wish THEIR candidate was the subject of conversation, or was as well-liked by many. And keep in mind as you hurl attacks back and forth, the Republicans are watching, and taking notes.

Posted by: Bokonon | August 4, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

csh--Try for aggregates.

Posted by: roo | August 4, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Roo - Local poilling has Hillary in trouble? Really? Exactly where? Please direct to to any such poll or is it posibly just your imagation?

Posted by: csh | August 4, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Chris lets not forget people said the same things about Howard Dean last time. I also think you are just seeing the local boy done good hype. You don't see that kind of support for Obama in any city outside of Chicago.

Posted by: bparrish | August 4, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

But Mrs. Thompson is attracting special notice both because of her background as a political consultant -- she worked at the Republican National Committee and elsewhere -- and because her role in the budding Thompson campaign was cited as a source of friction last week when Tom Collamore, the campaign's chief operating officer, stepped aside. His departure was followed by those of a couple of other top aides.

The campaign shake-up -- and a fund-raising haul of $3.4 million in June that fell short of expectations -- have revived questions about whether Mr. Thompson is losing momentum by delaying his formal entry into the race.

Posted by: sorry fred fans | August 4, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Tthank you roo, for saving me the time of expaining some very simple concepts to Joe and proud. those who get all their opinions from Hate Radio don't understand much reality.

It always cracks me up to hear them get hysterical about one of our leaders meeting with Castro or Abenijad. Becvause not meeting with them accomplishes exactly what?

But then these are simple folk-- everything is black and white.

Posted by: Cassandra | August 4, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

lylepink--Yes, unlike national polling which is broadly name-recognition only, local polling is showing Hillary to be slightly troubled.

Posted by: roo | August 4, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I should have written: Most of those at the Kos convention, or the tourist attending a second city show, ARE NOT the true heart of Chicago. We're over this 'cultural phenomenon'.

Posted by: Patrick | August 4, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

The Fix should check out the local papers and blogs, particularly Eric Zorn's column in the Trib on Obama giving a pass at getting involved in cleaning up the corrupt culture of Illinois and Chicago politics. I wasn't surprised, but a lot of us in Chicago are sick and tired of the rhetoric. This is Gary Hart all over again, remember "where's the beef".

Even folks in his own back yard are getting tired of the press treating this guy with kid gloves and constantly singing his praises, without any real substance to be singing about.

Most of those at the Kos convention, or the tourist attending a second city show, are the true heart of Chicago. We're over this 'cultural phenomenon'.

Posted by: Patrick | August 4, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

proudtobeGOP--"In today's dangerous global climate, we cannot afford to have a rookie as CIC who would issue threats to foriegn leaders before even being elected, and responds to his opponents criticism with such an outlandish flurry of gaffes."

Hey, proud, does this include threats to Iran, Russia or North Korea? Because I have a whole slew of quotes here unless you want to amend your statement.

Posted by: roo | August 4, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

joeCHI--Presenting opinions as facts is always entertaining. It used to be the favourite pastime of one of our least favourite posters here as you may know.

Your case is not helped, of course, by it being the minority view. Perhaps you would be interested in another take on the "gaffes" this past week? I would like to hear your counterarguments.

joeCHI--"He's expressed his interest in meeting with Castro and Ahmadinejad without preconditions."

Yes. Can you explain, in rational terms, what the negative effects of this would be instead of merely insinuating at some unseen horror?

joeCHI--"He's expressed his willingness to unilaterally and pre-emptively invade an unstable Muslim nuclearized ally."

No, he stated that he would use force against certain elements within the borders of Pakistan with "actionable intelligence." This would likely mean Special Forces operations. This is of course assuming that Pakistan refused to act or allow the U.S. to act to begin with.

joeCHI--"Lastly, he's committed himself to commenting on hypotheticals involving the most lethal weapon in a Commander In Chief's military arsenal."

Everything is hypothetical. You simply choose to ignore this when it does not suit your purposes. Describing anything that anyone will do when elected president is hypothetical. If you have an objection to his policies, please state it without resorting to transparent rhetorical ploys.

joeCHI-"Obama, in one week, has unified the GOP, Florida's Cubans and Jews, the world's Muslims, and all against the Democratic party."

Hyperbole? You might be very interested in seeing, oh, some recent polls from Israel before making yourself look silly.

Here is the text of the full speech Can you point out which parts of it you object? Once you have done so, I can point to several international relations experts who will counter the arguments you may present since you would likely dismiss our disagreements being mere commenters.

Did you, for example, notice that he was advocating a fairly sensible approach in Iraq without an immediate withdrawal?

I am not, actually, entirely happy with his stated policies due to the simplification demands of the campaign. Even that notwithstanding he is somewhat hawkish by international standards.

But his laid-out policies are miles above the juvenile and unproductive policy of not talking to "evil" nations as a punishment. The small advances with North Korea that the administration tried to parade a while back were the result of direct negotiations which of course was kept hush-hush because it goes against stated policies.

Posted by: roo | August 4, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

proudtobeGOP: We disagree most of the time, but on Obama, I think we are on the same page. I have been checking Kos for a time now and find, IMO, them to be a tad more on the Liberal side of the spectrum than most of us. These folks are more important in the primary/caucaus voting, for they will almost surely vote for the dem in the General. The Iowa polling is a little puzzling in the latest I've seen show Obama leading by 1 [one] % point, with Hillary and Edwards tied.

Posted by: lylepink | August 4, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama is still way behind Hillary in polls and did himself no favors this week by confriming that he is not ready to lead. All the hype never translated into enough people thinking he was in a better position to lead than Hillary.

Posted by: csh | August 4, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

JoeCHI is correct, the Senator from Illinois made himself look like a novice this week. In trying to counter the claims of his rival, he only added to the perception that he hasn't given all this foriegn policy stuff much thought, and certainly has no life experience to draw from in this arena.

His supporters like to paint him as a JFK-like figure. Well, one thing is for sure...John F. Kennedy served in the military and knew first-hand about war before seeking the highest office in the land. Kennedy's leadership as commander of USS PT-109 during WWII in the South Pacific, in which he swam with an injured shipmate to a nearby island after his ship had been split in two by a Japanese gunboat attack, was formed in the field. He then turned his sights toward public service.

In today's dangerous global climate, we cannot afford to have a rookie as CIC who would issue threats to foriegn leaders before even being elected, and responds to his opponents criticism with such an outlandish flurry of gaffes.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | August 4, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama is definitely more than just a candidate. And while activists may find his past week troubling, you have to remember at one time Bush's approval rating as 85% and that's when he was going after Osama. I for one have grown tired of small, but vocal groups of people (special interests) getting offended because they aren't directly appeased. The democrats will make a mistake if they think experience is what win's in 2008. (Look back to 2004 with Kerry). Instead the democrats need a leader who reaches to both parties.

Posted by: Nate | August 4, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, keep in mind, Second City is in Obama's backyard... You're not likely to see that kind of treatment in places like, I dunno, Alabama.

That said, I agree with what you're saying (First time a politician has made the cover of Vibe anyone? All the hip hop blogs are talking about it- and those are people who generally feel cynical and alienated by politics....)

Posted by: Arlen | August 4, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

JoeCHI as a member of the movement and on the behalf of the 300,000 of us as well as Barack, we are glad we can help after all it is good to know that someone can unite the GOP. Fortunately, even with Barack providing that much need service for the GOP, it still will not be enough to overcome the power of the movement and our ultimate success. It would be great to see you on Jan 2009 when Barack Obama is sworn in as the President of the United States of America. By the way thanks for the piece Chris.

Posted by: Dee | August 4, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Chris I'm sure that Oduma appreciates the free press. But you might consider taking a few steps back he may stop suddenly and where would your head be then? At least you have secured your position at the formerly great Post. Better watch it you know your boss is a big Shrillary backer.

Posted by: LaEscapee | August 4, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

MikeD and JoeCHI are both right. It remains to be seen which Obama will emerge... the "star" or the foreign policy novice.

Can they coexist? Perhaps.

But, a serious terrorist incident... something everyone is expecting before Bush leaves office... might dim Obama's stardom appeal in favor of someone more sure footed in foreign policy.

Posted by: Truth Hunter | August 4, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Well, it's been quite a week for the Obama!

He's expressed his interest in meeting with Castro and Ahmadinejad without preconditions. He's expressed his willingness to unilaterally and pre-emptively invade an unstable Muslim nuclearized ally. Lastly, he's committed himself to commenting on hypotheticals involving the most lethal weapon in a Commander In Chief's military arsenal.

Obama, in one week, has unified the GOP, Florida's Cubans and Jews, the world's Muslims, and all against the Democratic party.

As far as movements go, it's really an unprecedented accomplishment!

Posted by: JoeCHI | August 4, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Chris, you've put your finger on what makes Obama different. It's the enthusiam you've witnessed at YearlyKos, in the blogosphere, and reflected in comments to (but not the content of) mainstream media's reporting. I have been following politics all my life, and there are only two people I've ever witnessed with his talent to inspire people: Bill Clinton and JFK. I hope Barack will use his formidable talents to put America back on a better path.

Posted by: Mike D | August 4, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

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