Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Obama Index

Today, Illinois freshman senator Barack Obama formally announced he has created an exploratory committee "to raise money and begin building a campaign designed to 'change our politics,' the New York Times reports. As John Whitesides of Reuters News Service puts it, the announcement means Sen. Obama has "jumped into the 2008 White House race" for president.

In a sign of the times, Obama 's statement was released only on his web site. A video of the erudite senators reading his statement is also available here.

According to Whiteside, Senator Obama "plans a formal campaign announcement in his hometown of Chicago on February 10."
Obama, who gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention before he was even elected to the U.S. Senate, appeared on a Time magazine cover and drew big crowds while campaigning for Democrats last fall.

His visit to the early primary state of New Hampshire in December drew sold-out crowds and more than 150 journalists.

But the first-term senator also has been dogged by questions about his lack of experience and about whether the United States is ready to elect a black to the White House.

In his statement, Obama said he was struck by the hunger around the country for "a different kind of politics" and that decisions in Washington over the last six years of Republican leadership have put the country "in a precarious place."

"Our continued dependence on oil has put our security and our very planet at risk. And we're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged," said Obama, an opponent of the invasion of Iraq.

"But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics," he said.

Obama's quick rise has been fuelled in part by his smooth campaign style and unusual personal history. The son of a white Kansas-born mother and a black Kenyan father, the Harvard Law School graduate and little known state legislator in Illinois won the U.S. Senate seat in 2004 against a stand-in opponent.

What's that Reuters says? "Lack of experience?" "Little known?"

Reminds us of another young author who went on to bigger things. As Whiteside notes, Obama "has written two best-selling books and won a Grammy Award for his spoken word recording of his autobiography, 'Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.'"

The thing is, Obama really wrote his own autobiography. By himself! It was originally written shortly after he graduated from Harvard Law School, where he held the prestigious position of Editor of the Law Review -- something that doesn't happen to people in that highly competitive environment if they're incompetent, dyslexic fools who can only read a teleprompter.

Fancy that! The U.S. actually has a chance to elect as president someone who writes books as well as reads them. Practically a modern-era first for America.

The field of '08 presidential wannabes, both Democratic and Republican, already is crowded. It's likely to become only more so in the coming weeks. We can't keep up with all the polls coming out, so we've decided to monitor the progress of Barack Obama's campaign by checking in from time to time on our personal "Barack Obama Index" -- the going price for a first edition of Barack Obama's first book.

Dreams from My Father is now in reprint, both as a newly-issued hardbound ($25.95) and as a (revised) paperback edition ($14.95). Even the most recent edition of his second book -- a more obvious politically inspired effort -- is selling out quickly. Autographed copies are being offered on Ebay for as much as $84 and up.

Our own index, however, consists of hard-to-find First Editions of the senator's first book. Wikipedia identifies it as having been published by Crown on July 18, 1995 in hardcover with ISBN No. 0-8129-2343-X and edition ID number 98765432. If memory serves, the initial printing consisted of only 5,000 copies.

Some pretty large bets are being placed on the future value of that first edition. Alibris currently has a first edition = $ 879.94. Biblio.com lists one at $ 823.99. And an autographed first edition (via AbeBooks) can be had for $ 2,500.00.

How much more will a first edition fetch if Obama gets the nomination and wins the 2008 presidential election? We don't have a clue, but it'll be a lot more than "A Charge to Keep," the first edition of the earliest book that bears George W. Bush's name as the alleged author. (In fact, Mickey Herskowitz was the ghost-writer of Bush's supposed 'autobiography.')

According to Alibris, you can pick up one of those for as little as $2.95 and as much as $7.95. On Ebay right now, you might be able to snag one for 99 cents.

Anyone who buys it is still over-paying, if you ask us.

Dept. of Amplification

November 3, 2008: The Obama Index - Updated

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