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On the Way

Sitting on a small campaign jet during Barack Obama’s 2004 race for the U.S. Senate, I found myself lost in thought. The candidate, dressed in a crisp white shirt and striped tie, sat a few feet in front of me and to the right. I was staring ahead without realizing that I was looking directly at Obama himself, until the aspiring U.S. senator interrupted my rambling thoughts: “Hey, Mendell, what are you looking at?” he asked with a puzzled look…

The Worry

In the formative stages of Barack Obama’s fame, no topic would make him or his aides more uncomfortable than his personal safety. When I first broached the subject, in July 2004, it was uncharted territory for the then-candidate for the U.S. Senate. Obama had just returned from the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he had catapulted overnight into the zeitgest of Democrats across the country with his stirring keynote address…

The Teachings of Toot

Save for his mother, no one in Barack Obama’s life was more influential in shaping his character than his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, known affectionately among the family as "Toot."

"I suppose I provided stability in his life," Madelyn told me matter-of-factly in her Honolulu apartment in October 2004, one of only two media interviews, by my count, that she has given…

The Jealousy Factor

It’s hard to say exactly when the moment arrived, but well into Wednesday’s final presidential debate John McCain must have realized that he was not “whipping” Barack Obama’s “you-know-what” and, in fact, probably was starting to fall behind on points.

That’s when it kicked in, and you could see it wash over McCain’s face—that feeling of distaste for Obama that I’ve witnessed in so many of Obama’s political opponents (and some others) over the years. Call it jealousy or call it disdain, but Obama can readily elicit this emotion from people who come into contact with him…

The Fear Card

As the first biographer of Barack Obama, I have often found myself in a position where few journalists find comfort: defending the honor of a politician.

Yet, over the past 14 months, ever since the release of my biography of Obama, I have fielded countless questions about Obama that clearly have been based in ugly racial or religious distortion, and I have felt it my obligation to help set the record straight. In doing so, occasionally I have been accused of being an Obama sympathizer. But if that’s the price of spreading the truth, so be it…