Friday, January 23, 2009

The day I met President Obama.

Leonard Doyle of the Independent joined the queue of people waiting to meet the new first couple when the White House threw open it's doors after the inauguration. It was a miracle that he even got inside:

Some were invited but just as many, like me, were trying their luck.

Realising what was going on, Mrs Obama instructed the Secret Service agents to open the doors to everyone in line, whether they were on the carefully screened list or not. Soon we were walking through hallowed halls from which the public has been largely excluded since the attacks of 2001.

But it's Doyle's exchange with Obama when they finally met which made me smile:

Then it was my turn and the President proffered his hand. He looked exhausted after the inauguration, followed by a night of celebratory balls that ended in the small hours. But his handshake was warm and firm, not the bone-cruncher many politicians specialise in. He looked me directly in the eye and asked where I was from. "Dublin," I said, adding that we had met once before in Iowa, at a time when his candidacy was all but written off by the US media.

That November night he had just given a barnstorming speech which would prove to be the turning point in his campaign and lead to his first upset victory on 3 January last year. We had talked about his speech, the war in Iraq and how The Independent had also been against President Bush's adventure in Iraq. "I like The Independent," he had said then, "but I've got the Des Moines Register to consider. So before we talk further, tell me just how many of your folks vote here?"

Politicians, charming to a fault, as long as you have a vote that they can get. Otherwise, you are of no use to them.

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