Obama's new media message: You're too tough on me
CHICAGO, Ill. -- After watching a collected Barack Obama discuss his whirlwind overseas tour before a throng of mostly adoring admirers at the UNITY conference here, I've discovered his new answer to the allegations that media is too enamored, too deferential, too distracted to really dissect his candidacy for president.
Obama's response: You guys are holding me to a different standard.
When Obama was asked whether it looked as if he was "running for president of the world" by giving a speech in Germany attended by 200,000 people and meeting with major heads of state overseas, Obama replied that John McCain had done the same thing when he clinched his party's nomination without criticism.
When asked whether his repeated denials of rumors that his Muslim might boomerang by feeding the notion there is something wrong with being Muslim, Obama said he has noted the anti-Muslim tenor of the allegations and complained that the question was a "no win" query.
"I would ask that I am treated like other candidates in terms of expectations," he said. It was a mostly smooth performance by a candidate in a much different position than the last time he faced members of the National Association of Black Journalists. Back then, in August 2007, some still questioned whether the biracial, assimilated Obama was "black enough" to win the electoral support of black people.
"Now I'm TOO black, he said, drawing laughs and applause. "There is this sense of going back and forth, depending on the time of day, about where I fit."
This time, the biggest issue elated to Obama's appearance didn't have much to do with the candidate directly. Instead, in discussions before Obama took the stage, journalists wrestled over the notion of whether members of a journalism organization should be applauding or indicating their support for a candidate -- in the way some members expressed disapproval of President Bush when he appeared at UNITY four years ago.
Pulitzer Prize winner Les Payne, a founder of NABJ, noted journalists shouldn't applaud, but that journalists applaud politicians all the time -- getting chummy with the politicians they cover at the White House Correspondent's Dinner and other events.
It's a measure of the lack of news Obama generated that this debate would prove one of the more compelling elements of the appearance, which capped the weeklong UNITY convention here of more than 5,000 attendees, mostly from journalism organizations representing black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American journalists.
To bad moderator Suzanne Malveaux of CNN didn't press Obama a little to back up his recurring statements that he is treated differently. I also wondered why she didn't ask Obama about things journalists might care about -- like why he seemed to punish a writer for the magazine which published a satirical cover about him, leaving the reporter off his press plane. Or why he misdirected reporters into jumping on a plane he wasn't flying in, when he wanted to meet secretly with Hillary Clinton..
Instead, she let opportunity after opportunity pass to push back against a candidate who has shown surprising toughness with the press, despite widespread allegations that mainstream outlets are in love with him.