Obama: Messianic or Just Misquoted?

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Photo: Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty
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The idea that Barack Obama may be a little full of himself is not new (the "You're likable enough" line to Hillary Clinton, the faux-presidential seal, the "This is the moment" refrain in his speeches, etc.). But today a Washington Post story reignites the flames with a quotation that the Obama campaign is disputing. The Post reports that in a meeting with congressional Democrats, Obama said, "This is the moment…that the world is waiting for.…I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions." But the Obama campaign claims the quotation in context isn't nearly as arrogant: "It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol." It's clear, though, that as the story plays out, Obama should be wary of providing more fuel to the hubris fire.

• Dana Milbank, in the article with the quote in question, writes that Obama has become his party's "presumptuous nominee," shuttling around Washington — shutting down traffic with his "presidential-style motorcade," clearing the halls of the Capitol building, and being hustled in through a side door by the Secret Service, "just as they do for the actual president" — as if he's already won the election. [WP]

• Frank James notes that Obama finds himself in a tight spot: "Because of his relative newness on the national scene, Obama has to demonstrate he's presidential. How better to do this than to create numerous visuals where you look presidential?" Of course, do that, and you now seem presumptuous. [Swamp/Chicago Tribune]

• Jake Tapper reports that a "Democratic congressman who isn't a particular fan of Obama" confirms the quotation was something like, "'Those people in Germany weren't excited about me. They were excited by the prospect of America getting back to being all it could be.'" House Democrats are now "hunting around" for a recording of the meeting. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Marc Ambinder thinks that with the quotation in its full context, Obama is "kind of right." A lot of Europeans "see Obama as being on the right side of history." And another point: The Capitol police and the Secret Service are the ones who closed down the halls, not Obama's campaign. [Atlantic]

• Peter Wehner thinks the quotation is "doubly arrogant" if you've "achieved nothing so far in your life." It's more and more clear to some that Obama "views himself not as a presidential candidate, but as a world celebrity, with all the vanity and arrogance that accompanies such people." [Corner/National Review]

• Chuck Todd and friends think that even if the context matters here, "this narrative has been ready to explode at some point and even a misreported quotation was enough to spark this arrogance watch." Obama should remember that "that he's latching on to the anti-Bush coattails; any Democrat would be up right now." He could sure use some of his wife's self-deprecating "comments about her stinky and snore-y husband" right about now. [First Read/MSNBC]

• Dean Barnett calls the quotation proof "beyond any measure of a doubt that [Obama's] ego has completely run away with him." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Jennifer Rubin contends the media should blame itself for creating Obama's arrogance with its reporting, since one "can hardly blame the Great One for believing his press clippings." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jim Geraghty, examining another accusation of hubris, calls Obama's recent meeting with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke "a 2 or 3" on the "presumptuous scale," since "there's no direct precedent for a candidate to meet with the Federal Reserve chairman during the campaign, at least not recently." [Campaign Spot/National Review] —Dan Amira

Related: Heilemann: Five Things the Audacity of Hope World Tour Taught Us About Obama

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.