When Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote for last Sunday's paper that Barack Obama "might do his party a big favor" and step aside and take the blame so "someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket," the column went viral on the Drudge Report. It was also cited by Jay Leno in a monologue on NBC.
But the Tribune seemed huffy that anyone would think this opinon was an official nod of the Chicago Tribune, the president's hometown paper. That might carry more weight, since the Tribune aggressively smoothed out Obama's path to the Senate in 2004 by suing to acquire his opponents' divorce papers and reporting the tabloidish parts. Obama walked over former Democratic front-runner Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan dropped out, leaving as his Republican general-election opponent the carpet-bagging Alan Keyes. James Janega reported:
"Like other columnists who appear on our Commentary pages, Steve presented his own particular point of view," Tribune Editor Gerould Kern said Thursday. "We think Steve is an accomplished, insightful and thought-provoking columnist."
"But the voice of the Chicago Tribune as an institution and our positions on important public issues are embodied in our editorials that appear on the Editorial Page opposite the Commentary Page."
"The Chicago Tribune endorsed Barack Obama in 2008. Since then, we have supported a number of his actions and opposed or criticized others."
“As is our customary practice,” Kern added, “the Tribune will make endorsements in the presidential race in 2012."
That’s next year.
The column was a phenomenon this week. As Chicago Tribune Digital Editor Ben Estes watched our real-time metrics the day Drudge linked to Steve's essay, it was getting more readers at one time than Ben recalled the Blagojevich verdict getting.
I asked Steve what it was like to have your work referenced in a comedian's monologue.
"I've been writing a column for 30 years, and none has ever gotten as much reaction as this one," he said.
"Why? I think it was mainly because the suggestion that Obama not run for re-election came from someone at his hometown newspaper," Steve said.
"What surprised me was how the response was split. It wasn't conservatives on one side and liberals on the other. Some conservatives and liberals liked it, and some conservatives and liberals hated it," he said. "President Obama obviously stirs up complicated sentiments."