Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the August 15, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig

Baratunde & Obama
"So, Baratunde, what did you do last weekend?"

"Oh, you know, the usual: got quoted in the New York Times, challenged Barack Obama on his support for coal and booed Hillary Clinton along with 1,500 new friends."

It was another conference, another show for your weathered, state-hopping, joke-telling, peak-oiling sometimes-bouncer and Dig columnist. This time, I was in Chicago with comedians from Laughing Liberally to liven up the YearlyKos "Netroots" conference -- a gathering of liberal bloggers and activists.

I performed on the first night, opening for Governor Howard Dean, the man who shook the world in 2004 when he said "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." He might as well have tossed up an "L" with his hands and screamed, "Left side represent, son!"

Backstage, I chose to greet him by affecting a horrible British accent, saluting and yelling, "Evenin', guvna!"

I'm so stupid sometimes.

The next few days were full of memorable moments like:

-Meeting S.R. Siddarth, aka "Macaca," which translates to "I might have been president, but my racist bullying, Confederate flag and noose got in the way."

-Answering questions from Fox News and covering the logo on their microphone to avoid embarrassing my family.

-Finding out that Rudy Giuliani's daughter supports Obama for president, and thinking she probably also supports Obama for "dad."

-Discovering irony in the scheduling of the "Rebuilding New Orleans" panel opposite the "Global Warming" panel. I chose global warming, hoping that it would reduce the need for a "Rebuilding <insert city name here>" panel in the future.

-Watching Hillary Clinton dis-endear herself to the debate audience by trying to defend Washington lobbyists. A friend described Clinton's penchant for detailed answers well: "She likes to get into the sausage-making." Unfortunately, most of us just want to eat them.

After the debate, each candidate held a Q&A session in a small room. I chose Obama. People ran to his room to get a seat. Ran. After witnessing firsthand the misplaced devotion of thousands who camped out for the iPhone, I was genuinely proud of my fellow Americans for caring enough to exert themselves in the name of democracy.

In the session, Obama took a question from me. I stood and introduced myself, receiving a big round of applause from people who saw me perform earlier.

I was brief, expressing support for some of his energy-related positions but confusion over his support for environmentally destructive, petroleum-intense, worker-abusing coal. For about a minute, he locked eyes with me (if it were Cheney, I'd be dead by now) and answered in a comprehensive, thoughtful, but disappointing way, excusing his support with references to America's vast coal reserves, entrenched infrastructure and the need to develop and sell hypothetical "clean coal" to China and India.

I had gotten his attention. During the handshaking period at the end, Obama said to me, "Apparently, you're somebody I need to know." True. Now clean up your energy plan.