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Barack Obama's book hints at future presidential run

Mike Dorning
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - A new memoir by Illinois' junior senator, Barack Obama, sets out a lofty political vision that is sure to further speculation he is contemplating a bid for the White House.

"The Audacity of Hope" offers readers - and voters across the nation - an upbeat view of the country's potential and a political biography that concentrates on the senator's core values while providing a broad sense of how he would handle the great issues of the moment.

Obama, a Democrat, does not directly address the possibility of a presidential campaign, much less the timing of a run. But Obama's telling of his political life clearly signals possible plans for greater deeds ahead.

He includes his first glimpse of the White House - in 1984, while working as a community organizer at the Harlem campus of the City College of New York, during a trip to Washington to deliver petitions against student aid cuts proposed by the Reagan administration.

And he closes the book describing a habit of early evening runs during which he writes that he sometimes stops at the Lincoln Memorial.

"In that place, I think about America and those who built it," Obama writes. "It is that process I wish to be a part of. My heart is filled with love for this country."

The book, which takes its title from a line in his well-received address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, is part of a package of books for which he received a $1.9 million advance. It follows his best-selling 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father."

A copy of the book, which goes on sale Tuesday, was provided by the senator's office on Wednesday evening. In the coming days, Obama will tour the country to promote the book.

The memoir follows many of the conventions of a campaign biography, describing the senator's political journey with a blend of anecdotes and discussion of his principles.

"I find myself returning again and again to my mother's simple principle - `How would that make you feel' - as a guidepost for my politics," Obama writes.

"As a country, we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit," he continues, citing underfunded schools and highly paid CEOs who cut health benefits for workers. "A stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society."

He punctuates the book with glimpses of life with the powerful balanced with self-deprecating moments of humility, perhaps intended to build rapport with the public.

He describes meeting with President Bush, his first time on the Senate floor and encounters with wealthy businessmen such as billionaire Warren Buffett and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

There is also the shower he took his first morning in Washington, scrunched up against the wall because he had forgotten to buy a shower curtain and wanted to avoid flooding the bathroom. And the time he started to tell his wife about a high-powered Senate hearing only to be cut off with a demand that he pick up ant traps on his way home.

"I hung up the receiver, wondering if Ted Kennedy or John McCain bought ant traps on the way home from work," he wrote.

The book includes discussion of some of the trademark issues that have already brought Obama national attention, as well as his views on issues such as global competition, energy independence, terrorism, health care and Iraq.

Often they are given in broad principles. But he includes some specific proposals.

He advocates ending every tax break the oil industry receives and instead demanding that 1 percent of revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research.

On health care, he suggests allowing anyone to purchase a "model health plan" through pools set up in every state, which private insurers could bid to provide and with subsidies for low-income families and coverage for all uninsured children.

He also calls for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning at year's end.

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