New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a piece last week* in which she teased 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama about his big ears. Well it seems he can’t quite handle that. Microphones picked up a conversation he had with Dowd after a speech of his in New Hampshire last Sunday:

“You talked about my ears, and I just want to put you on notice: I’m very sensitive about – what I told them was – I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid about my big ears.” Dowd replies comradely, “Oh, we’re just trying to toughen you up!” The rest of the conversation is unclear.

Firstly, friends, it is incredible that this young “rock star” of a Democratic presidential candidate is unable to take a little jibing about his ears, from the woman who is perhaps going to be his biggest press supporter! If he needs to make a beeline for her after a speech to remind her that he’s sensitive about his ears, heaven help him in his state of preparedness for the office of President of the United States. Almost anyone in public life, let alone a presidential candidate, can ill-afford to be sensitive about anything, let alone anything so personal and of such little political consequence. If he’s going to run for the White House, he has a lot of growing up to do. Imagine when they start talking about his penis?

And notice Obama’s language: “I just want to put you on notice.” I just want to “put you on NOTICE?” Clearly this man is used to giving orders and getting exactly what he wants, much as he desires to come across as the humble, affectionate candidate who holds empathy with the common man. His attitude here is distinctly one which seeks to control Dowd’s future commentary; he’s putting her “on notice” that she should not mention his ears again. This certainly does not give me the impression of a man who would intentionally avoid manipulating the press, or who respects the freedom of the media to criticise him in whichever way they like.

It seems that, if Barack Obama is going to run for President, he’s going to expect the liberal media to give him unyielding, uncritical support. Sorry, but that isn’t going to fly in any case, and may well give more people a reason to conclude that he’s simply too inexperienced and naîve to take the job.

John Wright

* The piece was actually written on October 21st, as someone has pointed out to me by email.


UPDATE: Dec 18th

This certainly is a little firestorm of a story on other places around the net. See my comments and those of others below for more on the controversy, but I thought it would be prudent to say here that this story stands or falls on whether or not Obama was joking, as some have suggested. If he was, my criticism above is clearly unwarranted. Since there isn’t any way of knowing for sure, and since I wouldn’t expect Obama (or Dowd) to tell the truth about it in any case, the story was worthwhile covering – particularly during this setting of the stage for the presidential election in 2008. We’re finding out slowly who these candidates are, what they’re like, and there’ll be plenty more to come.