We break from precedent this week and present a conversation recorded twenty years ago with a part-time lawyer and even more part-time academic who, at the time,  aspired to enter political life in the Illinois Legislature and, incidentally, to sell a book. A standard step on that route was, and remains, to do some “talk shows.” I had never met him before he showed up at the studio but had heard a little about him (though nothing about his “politics”) from Law School friends at the University of Chicago.

In Macbeth, King Duncan complains that “there is no art to read the mind’s construction in the face.” Is there such an art as regards talk-show performances? I found this moderately attractive young fellow quite interesting but otherwise rather unexceptional. My producer, a bright, perceptive and ordinarily somewhat cynical recent  graduate of Yale, had a very different reaction. As the guest left the studio the producer said, “I don’t know where he’s going but I want to go there with him.” What did he sense that I didn’t? What do you note as you listen with the presidency-to-come now in mind?

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  1. DocJay Inactive

    A friend of mine was in the power halls of Chicago long ago. To be more specific he was on a boat on Lake Michigan when he heard this from a big money man and a union lobbyist. “We got this good looking African American and he’s gonna sing like a bird for us”. Clearly they were infected with the Obama illness which is a condition where you imagine the narcissist as an empty glass to pour your dreams in to.

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  2. user_124695 Inactive

    Did you, by any chance, ask him who wrote his book?

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  3. user_409996 Inactive

    I have to bail at 24 minutes in.

    I can see why people thought Obama was worth listening to and following back then.  He is articulate and engaging, if unoriginal in his thinking.

    The thing about Unoriginal Thinking is that it is easy to follow and agree with.

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  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Under no circumstances would I ever, voluntarily, listen to that man’s voice.  When it comes on the radio, I change the station.

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  5. Inwar Resolution Inactive
    Inwar Resolution

    +1 for Edward Smith – “unoriginal thinking.”  I thought: “Pablum,” particularly when he described being snubbed by cab drivers and women clutching their purses in elevators – cliches which rang so hollow when he parroted them that I immediately thought: “I bet that’s never happened to him.”  I think I counted the word “notion” four times – he really likes that word.  Maybe he thinks that he sounds smart and folksy at the same time.

    I enjoyed the part toward the end when the caller asked what he was going to do to help the black community, and he explained that he’d create dialog between the races, and he’d reorganize the African-American community around principles and values.  I’ll give him credit for consistently saying that for the last 20 years, despite the fact that his actions have done the exact opposite.  “Dialog” such as stoking the flames of racial unrest in Sanford, FL and Ferguson, MO.  “Principles and values” of which I’ve heard little in the last six years, unless those principles include “punishing your enemies.”  Blacks must be wondering what they got out of this monger of hope and change who was supposed to buoy the black community in America.

    BTW, it was charming to hear Milt’s 20-year-younger voice, but I missed the quote of Lenin’s pamphlet: “What is to be done?”  Milt, did you edit it out?

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  6. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues

    I didn’t hear a lot of clear foreshadowing of what his administration would be like, or how far left-leaning he would turn out to be.  He has apparently always been able to sound reasonable, to allow the listener to read into his words whatever he wanted to hear.

    Had to chuckle at about 37:30 minutes in when he claimed to be “still a believer in the rule of law.”  Riiiiiight.

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  7. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Knowing now that he is a Marxist, you can hear the deceptive language and the veiled calls for Socialism.

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  8. user_554829 Inactive

    RushBabe49:Under no circumstances would I ever, voluntarily, listen to that man’s voice. When it comes on the radio, I change the station.

    I lasted about 20 seconds into that whistling, sibilant speech pattern before I spared myself and turned it off.

    • #8
  9. The Lost Dutchman Member
    The Lost Dutchman

    Did anyone else see this and think it was an April Fool’s joke at first?

    • #9
  10. SallyVee Inactive

    Agree with everything Inwar wrote. I’ll add that BO was very careful not to diss his pal Louis Farrakhan in each of the several times Milt brought up Louie’s name and wretched deeds.

    His voice is quite mellifluous. He should go into the recording of children’s books biz — the scary kind, where there are hideously scary monsters under the bed.

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  11. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada

    Too bad this podcast wasn’t provided here a few years ago. I don’t think I can bear to listen to our president’s voice any more than I have to.

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  12. Casey Inactive

    What an extraordinarily fascinating interview.  Thanks for sharing.

    A few thoughts:

    • I didn’t hear anything here that reveals Obama to be particularly interesting.  At least no more than others who are interesting enough to be guests on a radio show.  One certainly wouldn’t have listened to this 20 years ago and thought “Magic!”
    • Almost unbelievable how little he has changed.  That is at once comforting and disturbing.  Comforting in that the Obama we see as President seems to be the real Obama.  Disturbing to think that he hasn’t evolved much.
    • Finally, I can’t help but get a feeling of sinking disappointment.  There’s just so much good he could have done in the last twenty years.  And bupkis.  A real shame.
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  13. user_477123 Inactive

    Thank God for Stitcher. The interview broke off after 14 minutes, just as my blood pressure started to rise. Man is this guy scripted. Not an original thought have I ever heard from this guy. I am baffled that John Podhoretz thinks this man is interesting.

    • #13