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Obama's Audacity

I'm not sure this is even news, but I found it interesting. On March 2 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Craig Robinson. Robinson is the head coach of the Brown University men's basketball team, and he also happens to be Barack Obama's brother in law. Obama married Robinson's younger sister, Michelle, in 1992.

(Some quick disclosure: Craig Robinson is a fellow Princeton grad (eight years my senior) and we've met a couple of times over the years through mutual friends - though I promise you he wouldn't know me from Adam. Michelle is also a Princeton grad, Class of 1985, whom I've never met)

With that out of the way, the Inquirer story begins with the following hook:

In the early 1990s, when his sister brought her new boyfriend home for the first time, Craig Robinson was understandably wary.

Now read how the article ends:

As for his brother-in-law, Robinson still shakes his head when he remembers that initial meeting. "We were talking about a variety of things and he said, 'I'm thinking about running for president one day,' " Robinson said.

"I said, 'President? President of what?' "

Again, in a generic sense, news that Obama is ambitious is very much "man bites dog." The guy was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, etc.

On the other hand, I can't recall seeing anything like this about Obama in print before. Robinson is talking about meeting him sometime in the early 1990's, probably during the latter half of 1991 when he returned to Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law and began work as a civil rights attorney (as stated above Barack and Michelle were married in 1992).

So, if Robinson's recollection is accurate, more than five years before Barack Obama first ran for elected office he was thinking and talking somewhat openly about running for President. Even though it sounded like a deluded fantasy to Robinson at the time, it provides a revealing glimpse into Obama's ambition. The fact that he would say such a thing to his girlfriend's older brother on their first meeting is another conversation altogether but it also speaks to a remarkably high level of confidence, ambition and, yes, audacity).

Part of Obama's appeal is that he appears refreshingly unambitious relative to his competition. Unlike Hillary, who seems to have spent every minute of the last ten years calculating each move with respect to its impact on her presidential ambitions, and unlike John Edwards, who has been running for President non-stop for the last five years, Obama has cultivated an image of being "the right man at the right moment." He's gone out of his way to make self deprecating remarks about his hyper popularity, and when discussing his thoughts about running for President he said more than once that "This is an office you can't run for just on the basis of ambition."

That's absolutely true. Personally, I think Obama made the right choice in running this year, even if it is a bit audacious. Still, it's a bit shocking to learn via his brother-in-law that Obama's audacious move seems to have been on his mind and in the works for a lot longer than most people thought.