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Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006 10:58 pm

A modest proposal

Were Obama a little less humble, he'd be perfect


It has to be tough for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama — who’s been asked repeatedly whether he’s considering a run for president or would accept an invitation to be a vice presidential candidate someday — to keep coming up with clever ways to skate around the question.

Obama’s standard response: I’m flattered, but I love being in the Senate. Other times the junior senator from Illinois deflects the query by making a funny, often at his own expense.

This past weekend, for example, speaking at an event hosted by Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in Iowa, Obama dismissed questions about whether he was feeling out the 2008 Iowa Democrat caucus, telling a Des Moines TV station that he showed up only because Harkin, “the more senior guy, who helps me get bills through,” told him to be there.

In his first few months in office, he joked that his responsibilities as 99th in seniority in the Senate included sharpening congressional pencils. Without a doubt, Obama’s charisma is the one of the key reasons his supporters are eyeing ’08, but here’s the problem:

Let’s say that Obama, a first-term senator, does seek higher office or is drafted as a running mate by his party’s eventual presidential nominee — voters might be reminded that he spent four years turning down the job. A little humility is one thing, but shouldn’t those who seek to lead the world’s most powerful nation believe that doing so is their destiny?

Maybe Obama doesn’t believe in himself.

Anna Soo Wildermuth, head of Professional Images Inc., an image-consulting firm based in Chicago, doesn’t believe that Obama’s penchant for self-deprecation is anything to worry about (Wildermuth currently has no politicians on her client roster).

“He has a wonderful speaking style,” Wildermuth says. “Because of his wonderful speaking style, and the way he’s able to express himself, I don’t think anyone thinks he’s lacking self-confidence.”

Wildermuth — a past president of the Association of Image Consultants International — says Obama doesn’t go overboard with beating up on himself, and aside from being a commanding speaker he’s good-looking, tall, and carries his clothes well.

Nor does Wildermuth believe that the dapper Democrat (for that, he gives his wife, Michelle, all the credit), who appears on the cover of September’s issue of Men’s Vogue magazine, is too GQ for an electorate that twice selected Cowboy George.

Obama, she says, has “a physique that’s stylish; he could put on a rag and still look good.”

She adds that Obama has a nice head shape, as does former Secretary of State Colin Powell. (For the record, she says that the shape of President George W. Bush’s head is just OK.)

However, there is one thing that could damage Obama’s image down the road, Wildermuth warns: overexposure.

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com

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