In The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama claims that he worried after 9/11 that his name, so similar to that of Osama bin Laden, might harm his political career.
But Obama was not always so worried about misspellings and radical resemblances. He may even have cultivated them as he cast himself as Chicago's radical champion.
In 1998, a small Chicago theater company staged a play titled The Love Song of Saul Alinsky, dedicated to the life and politics of the radical community organizer whose methods Obama had practiced and taught on Chicago's South Side.
Obama was not only in the audience, but also took the stage after one performance, participating in a panel discussion that was advertised in the poster for the play.
Recently, veteran Chicago journalist Michael Miner mocked emerging conservative curiosity about the play, along with enduring suspicions about the links between Alinsky and Obama. Writing in the Chicago Reader, Miner described the poster:
Let's take a look at this poster.
It's red—and that right there, like the darkening water that swirls down Janet Leigh's drain [in Psycho's famous shower scene], is plenty suggestive. It touts a play called The Love Song of Saul Alinsky, Alinsky being the notorious community organizer from Chicago who wrote books with titles like Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. On it, fists are raised—meaning insurrection is in the air.
And down at the very bottom, crawling across the poster in small print, it mentions the panel discussions that will follow the Sunday performances. The panelists are that era's usual "progressive" suspects: Leon Despres, Monsignor Jack Egan, Studs Terkel . . .
And state senator Barack Obama.