Barrack Obama’s wife, Michelle, recently granted an interview to Glamour Magazine in which she gave the public more of a mental vision of her husband than we really wanted. Michelle told the magazine that their two little girls often come into her bed, but Barack isn’t there “because he’s too snore-y and stinky.” Other tidbits fed to Glamour included the fact that her husband fails to put his socks into the dirty clothes, and that their 5-year-old daughter Sasha does a better job at making a bed.

Now we all realize that humanizing a candidate often translates into more votes. There’s the folksy narrative of Harry Truman carrying his suitcases up to the attic in Independence, Missouri. And that charming home movie of JFK in the Oval Office with John-John and press secretary Pierre Salinger. John-John calls the president “poo-poo head.” Kennedy turns to Salinger and asks, “Did someone just call the president of the United States ‘poo-poo head’?” “Yes sir,” Salinger replies, “I believe he did.”

But this delightful interchange was recorded privately and released only after President Kennedy’s death. It thus became an even more cherished memento, showing JFK’s love for his son and his self-deprecating humor. But Michelle Obama’s comment in front of the world’s camera crews came across as just a little nonessential – what some image makers might call a “tooth grinder.”

This offbeat publicity probably isn’t bothering Mr. and Mrs. Obama the least bit. On the heels of the “stinky” episode comes word that Oprah Winfrey has not only given her unconditional endorsement of Barack Obama, but will also host a four-star fundraiser for him at her palatial estate in Santa Barbara on September 8. Some are speculating that the evening’s collection plates could add as much as $10 million to Obama’s war chest.

The Oprah bash will certainly hold the spotlight for a day or two, but then it’s back to such unresolved issues as Mitt Romney’s claim that Obama “has gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.” Romney was referring, in part, to Obama’s recent statement that “if we have actionable intelligence about terrorist targets in Pakistan, and the Pakistani president doesn’t act, we will.” Romney said that even if the best interests of America were threatened, and military action was the fitting response, “we don’t say those things…we keep our options quiet.”

The “Jane Fonda” reference Romney used was prompted by Obama’s statement to the Associated Press on August 2 that he would not use nuclear weapons against Al Qaeda “under any circumstances.” Hillary Clinton also thought this position was worthy of criticism, saying presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear weapons as deterrents to keep the peace, and that no president should make blanket statements about their use or nonuse.

Obama’s handlers said all the fuss was due to sloppy reporting, and that Obama was talking about the nonuse of nuclear force in a specific situation. They say he did not announce that he would rule out using nuclear weapons in all situations. One situation in which tactical nuclear weapons would not be used, according to Obama spokesman Bill Burton, would be actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden was alive, and that we knew his approximate whereabouts. “Senator Obama would act and is confident that conventional means would be sufficient to take the target down,” said Burton.

Meanwhile, Blake Zeff, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said, “As president, Senator Clinton would take whatever steps necessary to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership. Senator Clinton believes that presidents should not brandish the nuclear option, nor should they forego that option.” Bottom line: two of the most likely Democratic candidates for the presidency might push the nuclear button if conditions were right.

Among those made nervous by the possibility of nuclear button pushing are the Germans. The highly regarded Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper editorialized:

Whoever takes Obama’s remark seriously will soon begin to start brooding, especially because Pakistan and its president are indispensable to wear down the terrorists. For sure, President Musharraf has made mistakes and various maneuverings, but to pull the domestic political rug out from under him would further deteriorate the situation. The world that is now looking forward to the end of President Bush’s administration will find out that – if a Democrat succeeds him – there are certain continuities across U.S. party lines.

These incidents illustrate how easy it is to alarm and anger friends and foes alike with impulsive speeches and off-the-cuff remarks. Obama’s campaign advisers need to adopt the old “360-degree approach” – walking completely around and evaluating talking points, position papers, and policy statements. While taking the high ground in the national security debate, the response by the German media and those of other nations demonstrates how easy it is to be labeled militaristic and an opportunistic hard-liner.

– Chase.Hamil

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