Friday, December 23, 2005

Obama shuns limelight, builds record

"He has checked his star power on the national stage by delving into a few carefully hand-picked issues—most with bipartisan overtones and centrist rhetoric such as the federal government's response to Katrina."

"But Obama hasn't shied away from the national stage completely.

"For starters, he has served as a money magnet for his party and for himself, easily raising loads of campaign cash for Senate Democrats, filling the coffers of his own political action committee and parlaying his new celebrity into a $1.9 million book contract."

"All this, Obama says, has been done with little effort on his part; he estimated he has spent about two hours a week on fundraising, a fraction of the hours other lawmakers put in working the phones."

"He chose a half-dozen or so mostly noncontroversial topics on which to carve a niche. And on those issues—which range from the government's preparedness for avian flu to destroying weapons stockpiles in the former Soviet Union—he has mostly crafted a moderate stance, often working closely with a Republican colleague.

"He went to Russia and the Ukraine with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to inspect weapons storage sites. He teamed up with Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., to offer a 'sensible center' proposal on the divisive issue of immigration reform."

"Obama said his interests converged with those of Coburn, the conservative Republican. 'Tom and I may not agree how money should always be spent, but we can agree that money should not be wasted,' he said."

"Obama's approach has mostly earned him rave reviews—from Republicans and Democrats alike—who say he is an open-minded, deliberative lawmaker.

"Coburn called him a 'phenomenal young man who will go to great heights.'"

"Ronald Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, ... sees Obama as part of a 'new generation' of African-American leaders who are 'less strident, less demanding, less militant.'" ...

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