Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama accused of being a Muslim stumping for votes Tuesday in Indiana. Pool report.


Sen. Barack Obama made two campaign stops early Tuesday morning,
stumping for votes at a restaurant in Greenwood, Ind and outside a
polling place in Indianapolis.
Obama, wearing a white shirt and tie, spoke to reporters at both

Sen. Barack Obama made two campaign stops early Tuesday morning,
stumping for votes at a restaurant in Greenwood, Ind and outside a
polling place in Indianapolis.
Obama, wearing a white shirt and tie, spoke to reporters at both

He spent about 45 minutes at the Four Seasons Family Restaurant in
Greenwood ("Try our catfish,'' a sign outside reads); and 20 minutes
outside the polling place, which was at Butler University's Hinkle
First the q-and-a.
At the restaurant in Greenwood, I asked the Illinois senator how he felt
about the day.
"I think we campaigned hard and well in this state,'' he said, sitting
on a stool at the restaurant counter. Nodding to the man eating
breakfast to his right, 59-year-old Rick Jones, Obama said he "met
wonderful people like this gentleman right here. And I think it's going
to be close. I don't think anybody knows exactly what's going to happen.
But as usual, I'm seeing a lot of enthusiasm among the voters. People
are really engaged and excited about this campaign.''

He was eating the "house omelet'' -- made with ham, feta cheese and
vegetables ($6.95). I asked him about all the voters he's met of late
who've told him he looks thin.
"I'm trying to fatten up,'' he said. "They give me five minutes to

He turned to Jones: "It's true. I've lost about 7 or 8 pounds.''
At his next stop, outside Hinkle Fieldhouse, Obama spoke to reporters at
greater length.
I asked him about the importance of winning Indiana.
"I like winning every state,'' he said.
Asked how the day was shaping up, he said: "I think there's going to be
a good turnout. People seem very enthusiastic.''
Obama was asked about his difficulties winning over blue collar voters.
"It's really a mixed bag,'' he said. "There've been some states where we
have won the blue collar vote. Wisconsin. We won it in Iowa. We won it
in Minnesota. Then there are other states where we've not done so well,
mainly because people are much more familiar with Sen. Clinton and
President Clinton and their track record.
"You have to give them credit. They're the best established brand name
in Democratic politics, maybe in politics overall. They've been on the
scene for 20 years. They're not going to go down easy. We've just got to
keep on delivering our message - that we're going to change things like
high gas prices.''
He made what seemed a reference to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's
proposed suspension of the federal gas tax.
"We were over in Greenwood, visiting in a coffee shop, and people are
serious about the issues in this campaign. They're concerned about gas
prices. I think they believe we need long term relief and not just
Washington gimmicks.''

The scene at the two stops:

About 50 people were eating breakfast at the restaurant in Greenwood
when Obama walked in at 7:40 a.m. He went from table to table, chatting
briefly with patrons about the economy and gas prices before sitting
down to breakfast.

One of his first encounters went poorly. He approached a man sitting
alone at a table and was waved away. The man told me afterward he had no
interest in meeting Obama.
"I can't stand him,'' he said. "He's a Muslim. He's not even
pro-American as far as I'm concerned.''

Obama seemed unfazed. He had better luck at a round table where several
men were eating. They said they regularly gather there to eat breakfast
and talk politics. They've dubbed the spot, "The Johnson County

Obama asked them what they'd been discussing.
"It's time we made things better,'' one man replied.
Obama: "I know! How we going to do that? We need to get some relief from
taxes to help pay rising costs.''
One man said he was a sales rep who spends a great deal of time driving.
The conversation turned to fuel prices.
Obama then reprised his argument with Clinton over the gas tax holiday.
"The problem with it is you take away 5% in federal taxes and the oil
companies just raise their prices 5% and it never gets to the consumer.
So it makes them more profits. So what I've said in the short term is
let's give a tax break to the folks. In the long term we're going to
have to figure out how to use oil more efficiently.''
At another table, John Hubler, 51, invited Obama to join some friends
for a game of pickup basketball later in the day.
"If I'd known, I'd have been out there with you,'' Obama said.
Asked later who he planned to vote for, Hubler, who sells cars in
central Indiana, said: "That's a secret.''
Obama got a bit of a surprise at one table. While talking to a trio of
men eating breakfast, one handed him the bill. "This will seal the
thing,'' he said.
Obama accepted it, and later took it to the cashier and paid it.
Before that, though, he spoke with them about transforming Washington's
political culture.
Steve Czajkowski, a pastor at the Community Church of Greenwood, said:
"We need to hit the re-set on Washington.''
"Someone's got to fix Washington,'' he added. "Someone has to say, 'I
can at least get in there and make a little bit of a difference, and
start an avalanche.' ''
Obama: "That's what we're going to try to do. And it starts with how you
finance campaigns. It starts with opening up the process so it's more
accountable and people know what's going on. ... Government is very
secretive right now.''
Czajkowski later told reporters he liked Obama, but was a Canadian
citizen and could not vote.
Obama's meal was hardly a casual one. A battery of cameras captured
every forkful of omelet and hash browns.
"You guys ever get tired of taking pictures?'' Obama asked the pool.
People approached him throughout the meal, shaking hands and posing for
pictures. One man, Roscoe George, handed him a cell phone so Obama could
talk to his wife.
For his part, Jones seemed delighted by the company.
"I've eaten breakfast every morning here for 20 years in this seat. I
walk up this morning I had no idea what was going on.''
A custom home builder, Jones later said he nearly finished reading
Obama's book, "Dreams from my Father.'' Asked who he planned to vote
for, Jones said: "The person sitting next to me.''

At the Hinkle Fieldhouse, Obama prowled the parking lot looking for
people on their way in to cast ballots.
"Any more voters?'' he would say. Aides said Obama was careful to meet
the requirement that candidates stay 50 feet from the polling place.
"President Obama!'' called out Tracie Nelson, 37, a health care
recruiter from Indianapolis.
"That has a ring to it, doesn't it?'' Obama said.
The two posed for a picture.
Nelson later said: "I'm in awe. Typically, I'm not like that with human
beings. But this guy here is amazing.''
So, she voted for him then? Indeed.
"Are you kidding me?'' Nelson said. "His wife has my vote!''
Obama had some fun when handed a brochure for a judicial candidate,
David J. Dreyer. The pitch came from the man's daughter, 16-year-old
Hannah Dreyer, a high school student from Indianapolis wearing an Obama
Obama read aloud from the card:
" 'One of our best judges in Marion County;' 'Treats everyone with
respect.' ''
"He's the man!'' Obama said.


"The man told me afterward he had no interest in meeting Obama. "I can't stand him,'' he said. "He's a Muslim. He's not even pro-American as far as I'm concerned.''"

Please tell us you corrected the man and said that Obama is a Christian.

I hope someone had the decency to tell the misinformed voter that Obama isn't a Muslim. Such ignorance is hard to stomach regardless of who you're supporting in this race.

"I can't stand him,'' he said. "He's a Muslim. He's not even
pro-American as far as I'm concerned.''

If I were there I would have kicked that gentleman in the teeth!

He's still a Muslim? That kind of lunacy, my friends, is why we have nitwits like Pres. Bush in office. We have got to be the stupidest first world nation around.

How can anyone so nice and down-to-earth to EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF RACE be considered anti-american?

Great article, Lynn, thanks :) I hope Obama considers you for Press Secretary when he is President :)

Obama don't waste time on those low information voters. That's why this country is in the fix we find ourselves.

AS for people who want to dismiss Obama, he is running for president not black caricature paegent.Randall Robinson wrote somwhere that:the blindness of race is prety much universal, and that most of us have been acclimated to static expectation and some level of socially acceptable prejudice.Most of us, the trunk and extremities of our organic democratic society, see little if anything.

A comparative few of us, the uppermost parts who contain power and wealth, get every chance to see more but, consiously or unconsciously,elect to blind ourselves____in their own narrow shortsighted interest, of course.

Or is it that we are afraid to see, fearing that if we really were to, the unmodulated demands would be too monstrously overwhelming or, less defensively threatening to any number of petty personal interests.

Denial is not a reflex of logic and its comforts are fickle and temporary. Seen, unseen the smoke eventually kills.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on May 6, 2008 11:30 AM.

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