Another test for 2008?
Obama again publicizing HIV screening -- and he's got a big speech on Iraq today
For the second time in 97 days, Sen. Barack Obama -- who is mulling a 2008 presidential run and giving a big speech on Iraq today -- will take another public HIV/AIDS test.
Given his marriage to his wife, Michelle, and the certainty he is not shooting up anything, Obama's test results will again be negative.
As an HIV/AIDS awareness publicity stunt, public testing is a tool to help fight the disease. I'm not naive; I understand that Obama taking an HIV/AIDS test in his father's Kenyan province in August was a highly symbolic but potentially educational, motivational and life-saving gesture in a country where men resist testing. But after Obama takes another public HIV/AIDS test Dec. 1 -- for this audacious senator, maybe enough is enough.
Obama's previous HIV/AIDS test was Aug. 26 in Kisumu, a city in western Kenya about an hour away from his father's homestead. He was joined by Michelle.
Example for African men
Obama's next HIV/AIDS test (actually his third, since he had one for a life insurance policy) is at a Global AIDS Summit sponsored by the evangelical "purpose-driven" Saddleback Church in southern California.
Obama's testing partner Dec. 1 will be Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who is contemplating a presidential bid.
Brownback and Obama teamed up in April. Brownback was the man no one recognized when they joined actor George Clooney to pressure the Bush White House to do more to save victims of genocidal violence in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Maybe they can get Clooney to take a public HIV/AIDS test.
In August in Kenya, the Obamas took HIV/AIDS tests in a province with a 15 percent infection rate. Barack and Michelle Obama each had fingers pricked to draw blood and then underwent "couples counseling" in a mobile unit funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone, I noticed, stashed a phallus that was on display before the Obamas sat down for their session.
The point of the exercise before thousands of chanting and cheering admirers was to try to show men in sub-Saharan African countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS there was no stigma in getting tested.
Now that Obama is opening the door to a presidential run, what he does will undergo more scrutiny, such as the efficacy of serial HIV/AIDS testing, no matter how well-intentioned.
The November issue of Harper's magazine has a long, detailed account of Obama's massive fund-raising efforts, for himself and others, which are absolutely critical to his becoming a viable presidential candidate.
May have to toughen up
In a cover story titled "Barack Obama Inc. The Birth of a Washington Machine," writer Ken Silverstein concludes that "although Obama is by no means a mouthpiece for his funders, it appears that he's not entirely indifferent to their desires either."
Obama speeches -- which up to now have not been deconstructed -- will be, I guarantee you, looked at differently now that he is talking about running for the White House. The thin-skinned Obama operation may have to toughen up.
Obama is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be chaired come January by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who is also exploring a 2008 presidential run. Biden may not take the fatherly bipartisan interest in Obama that the outgoing chairman, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), did.
Today, at the Hilton Chicago, Obama will make what's being billed as a major speech, his views on the "Next Steps in Iraq." He has been talking about a phased withdrawal tied to benchmarks but is expected to go into more detail before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
The last senator who spoke to the esteemed group? Another 2008 White House maybe candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).