In the Nation this week, I have a major piece on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). He called me many months ago after I wrote a few critical pieces of him (here and here), and after a long conversation, I asked to spend a day with him in Washington to ask him some questions. He agreed and the piece is the result of that interview.
I wanted to get a sense of what Obama wants for himself -- rather than what we the public are projecting onto him. And in exploring that question, I found the answers were not easy to find. He strongly supports some very progressive policies, but he also called Sen. Paul Wellstone a "gadfly" -- a negative term that suggests Obama doesn't aspire to pursue a similar courageous path as the late progressive hero from Minnesota charted.
To be sure, Obama is a sincere guy who has great talent and great potential -- but only if he is willing to reject Washington's definition of "mainstream" and use his talents to redefine "mainstream" to make it represent ordinary people. The question remains: does he have the guts -- or desire -- to take on that monumental task? You can read the full piece here to see my attempts to find the answer.