An Open Invitation To The Obama Girls

It’s not every day that you invite the President-elect’s daughters to come to a mass dog wedding.

But when it comes to a great cause, has a logical link to a pledge that Barack Obama made before the world on Tuesday night, and Sasha and Malia just happen to be in the neighborhood anyway…well, it just seems like the right thing to do.

Check out excerpts from the Guinness World Record attempt news release, touting the canine conjugals tomorrow in downtown Oak Park. It all starts at 11 a.m. for those dogs that need a speed-dating service, with bow vows at 1 p.m.

Even if the Obama girls aren’t able to join in the fun, plenty of people will and you’re invited along too. Here, you can check out the history of I Do, Doggone It!

Read It! Obama: From Promise To Power

It’s a few minutes past 10 p.m. on Election Day, it appears Barack Obama is about to vacate his seat as the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, and I can only imagine what must be going through the mind of David Mendell.

He’s the author of Obama: From Promise To Power, a thoroughly balanced and thoughtfully written book that was published in August 2007.

In late-January 2008, I was pleased to meet Mendell for the first time, for a pre-arranged interview. At the time, Obama’s campaign was on the ropes and Hillary Clinton appeared to have the inside track on the Democratic nomination for president.

You can see the result of that meeting in a profile that I wrote for the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest.

Since that bitterly cold winter night, Mendell and I have kept in touch by e-mail. So it was uncanny timing that, of all days, I’d bump into him this afternoon (almost literally, nearly tapping his parked car as I navigated into a parking spot in downtown Oak Park).

At this moment, as Obama stands at the center of the world’s attention, Mendell must be musing about the many times he was the only one following Obama around, during the early stages of his run for U.S. Senator only five years ago.

To anyone who wants to glean significant insight into our President-elect, and who would be intrigued to come alongside Mendell during those formative times in Obama’s rapid political ascent, I encourage you to dig into Obama: From Promise To Power.

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Hey, Joe The Plumber: It’s Just The Start!

The moment I saw my brother’s text message last night, I suspected that we had the latest media sensation on our hands.

“Joe the plumber making waves in debate,” Andy wrote.

At first, I thought some guy named Joe had commandeered a microphone at last night’s third and final Presidential Debate and blasted Barack Obama or John McCain, or both. Instead, as I later learned, McCain had simply referred to this fellow named Joe, oh, about 4,000 times. “Joe the plumber” became a mantra as McCain sought to connect with the nation’s beleaguered middle-class.

Now comes news that Joe is not actually a licensed plumber. Horrors! What next?

Of course, that’s just one detail among hundreds that have already emerged about the suddenly famous 34-year-old from the Wurzelbacher clan. Typing “Joe the plumber” into Google nets 900,000 hits, easily outdistancing “Joe sh*t the rag man,” one of my mom’s favorite expressions.

Mark my words: in 2012, 2016, 2020, and every four years thereafter, Joe the Plumber (the “p” will be capitalized by then) will be sought out for his views of that year’s Presidential race. That is, if the Ohio man can live through all the nutty media scrutiny.

By the way, a certain Amarillo, Texas plumber with a fortunately named website and a hilarious Dan Aykroyd-in-Saturday Night Life style illustration on the home page is bound to see an uptick in business.

And a certain Houston plumber must be getting some increased web traffic, too.

Can a “Joe the Plumber” political party be far behind?

Obama’s PR Problem: Endorsing A Hack

Here in Cook County, the second-largest county in the nation, there is a population of more than 5 million, which exceeds that of 30 states.

It’s a hugely significant place, with Chicago at its epicenter and a County Board President by the name of Todd Stroger. In case you’re not familiar with him, Stroger isn’t equipped to lead a county of five people, let alone 5-plus million. To put it as clearly as I can, Stroger is a political hack.

Yet two years ago, Barack Obama, along with fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, endorsed Stroger in his race against Republican Tony Peraica. Of course, it would be naive to suggest they should have endorsed Peraica. But they had the option of simply steering clear of making any endorsement.

Instead, they must have had to hold their noses as they read the glowing letter that some staffer undoubtedly penned. You can see the letter right here, as part of Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn’s archives.

The endorsement letter, which may well have been instrumental in tipping the narrow race in Stroger’s favor, concluded:

“On Tuesday Todd Stroger is the only choice. You can make the difference. You can raise your voice. You can choose Todd Stroger, and let him lead us into a new era of Cook County government.”

It’s a new era, all right. A new, increasingly tax-happy, incompetent era that has made the county–and Stroger, in particular–a laughingstock. Except, in my household, nobody’s laughing at being squeezed out of even more of our hard-earned money. And that’s just the tip of a bumbling, unprofessional iceberg.

Type “Todd Stroger patronage” into Google and feast your eyes on the ways in which he’s confirmed our worst fears–and raised new ones.

In the person of Todd Stroger, Barack Obama has one serious PR problem on his hands.

I covered local government in Illinois for some 15 years, about half of that time for the Chicago Tribune. One 2 1/2-year beat was the town of Cicero, shortly after its president, Betty Loren-Maltese, and six others went to prison for stealing millions in taxpayer money. So I have seen plenty of good, bad and ugly elected officials.

Time will tell how much the Stroger debacle will cost Obama. He’s part of the Chicago Democratic Machine that Tribune columnist John Kass writes about so persistently.

I have followed Obama’s career closely the past five years, ever since I first encountered an uncommon zeal in the voices of those who supported his burgeoning U.S. Senate campaign in my town of Oak Park, Illinois.

I am reading his first book, Dreams From My Father, and last year I read an excellent, and balanced, book (Obama: From Promise to Power) that Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell wrote–a book that moved me to write a feature story about Mendell’s journey.

And lately, even with the Stroger support nagging at me, I have wanted to believe that Obama is sincere when he lays claim to the mantle of reformer and bringing “change” to the political process. He’s bright, he’s charming, he talks a very, very good game.

But in this one crucial moment two years ago–when he held significant sway over an election of such import–Obama’s actions sharply contradicted his lofty words.

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