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A Barack Obama forum can seem a lot like class, without the bell

April 25, 2008 |  6:24 pm

As Sen. Barack Obama's rivals have sought to paint him as a liberal elitist in recent weeks -- and he helped them with some inartful phrasing at a San Francisco fundraiser about "bitter" small-tIllinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may throw his socks all over at home, but when speaking in public he likes order, as at this Indiana forumown people -- there is at least one aspect of his personality and background that does help feed that caricature.

Meet Prof. Obama, the sometimes aloof campaigner who can come across as a bit smug and has been known to talk about such things as arugula, an upscale leafy green, in places like corn-fed Iowa.

Although his powerful oratory often wins praise, attending Obama campaign events can sometimes feel like sitting in a classroom, albeit with a lecturer decidedly more fiery than your average college professor.

As much as Obama's wife, Michelle, has talked about his tendency to leave clothing scattered about their home or forget to put away the butter, there is no question that he likes order, especially when in front of his classroom.

"Everybody have a seat," he said during a recent stop in Gary, Ind., as he finished a speech and prepared to take questions. "We've still got a little more work to do."

As the crowd sat down, Obama provided his students with guidance on how to address their professor.

"Now, there are only a few rules. Rule No. 1: Raise your hand. Don't shout out at me, because there are going to be more questions than I have time," he said. "No. 2: Wait for a microphone in the audience, so that everybody can hear your question. No. 3: Please introduce yourself. No. 4: I'm going to go boy, girl, boy, girl, so that nobody thinks I'm biased."

Hope you got that, 'cause he's not gonna repeat it.

-- John McCormick

John McCormick writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau.                            

Photo: Joe Raymond / Associated Press

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