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Obama’s Photophobia

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.


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