The biggest problem that Obama has is this: We don’t know who he is. Who are his people? Whom does he surround himself with? Whom does he listen to? Who gives him advice? He’s so new to the national political scene that he hasn’t had time to choose the team that would be with him in the White House. The more we see him in action, he’s still just campaigning. He still has the quality of an unknown. And as attractive and likable as Obama is, we still need references.
Kevin goes deep on this paragraph, complaining that Dreams From My Father didn’t give him a real sense of Obama, but the next paragraph indicates that Quinn’s issue is that she doesn’t know enough about his advisory team. Indeed, the way it’s written strongly implies that Obama doesn’t have a staff, or that who’s on it is secret. But as Reed Hundt points out this is totally wrong:
Actually there have been dozens of articles about his team, including discussions of his economic advisers, fundraisers, experienced and capable Senate staff, and others. Just in terms of policy alone, a friend of mine, Karen Kornbluh, happens to be his chief policy director in the Senate office. Matt Alexander, otherwise a professor of law at Seton Hall, is his campaign policy director.
One could add Austin Goolsbee on economics, Samantha Power and Susan Rice on national security issues, etc. I have this sneaking suspicion that Quinn’s objection is that she doesn’t know Obama personally. She’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he “need[s] references” — people she knows personally. Quinn’s job in this scheme, is to pass judgment on political figures based on her personally familiarity either with them or with his or her key “references” at which point the voters go along meekly with her choice.
Note also that totally missing in her column is the customary — and at least somewhat apt! — complaint that Obama has said enough about actual policy issues since, of course, policy is for losers and serious analysts rely on the social register (or something) to make their choices.
UPDATE: Kevin says he didn’t mean to endorse Quinn’s argument but, rather, to reach a similar conclusion based on his reading of Obama’s book. My reading was more simply that Obama can’t do a certain sort of writing all that well, a lot of telling us how he feels rather than showing it.