"After all this time with him, I still can't say with certainty who he is," wrote Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times Tuesday about Sen. Barack Obama, with whom he's spent roughly 18 hours a day for most of this campaign.
Mr. Obama rarely engages in banter with the reporters who travel with him, and typically is in "robo-candidate mode" on those occasions he does speak with them, Mr. Nicholas said. "Ironically, those of us who were sent out to take his measure in person can't offer much help in answering who he is, or if he is ready. The barriers set in place between us and him were just too great."
Less is known about Barack Obama than about any major party candidate for president in modern history. His public resume is thin eight years in the Illinois Senate, four in the U.S. Senate, with two of them spent running for president.
And no candidate for president has had more problematic associations. Barack Obama's first major financial backer was Antoin "Tony" Rezko, currently awaiting sentencing on corruption charges. For nearly 20 years Mr. Obama attended services where the Rev. Jeremiah Wright preached hatred of the United States, and of white people. The radical group ACORN has been committing voter registration fraud on a massive scale. Mr. Obama taught classes for ACORN organizers, and represented the group in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois. The most significant managerial responsibility Barack Obama has ever had was as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a project conceived of by unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers.
These associations have been less explored by the mainstream news media than has Joe the Plumber's divorce and a tax lien against him.
Mr. Nicholas' colleague at the Los Angeles Times, Peter Wallsten, wrote a story in April about a testimonial dinner Mr. Obama had attended in 2003 for Rashid Khalidi when Prof. Khalidi left the University of Chicago for Columbia University. Mr. Khalidi and his wife, Mona, had worked for WAFA, the propaganda arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He later co-founded the rabidly anti-Israel Arab American Action Network. Among the contributors to a book of testimonials presented to Mr. Khalidi at that dinner were Sen. Obama and Mr. Ayers.
Mr. Wallsten's account of the event was based on a videotape of it supplied by an anonymous source. That videotape could answer some relevant questions. What exactly was said at the dinner? How did Mr. Obama respond? Were Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn there? But the L.A. Times which thought it newsworthy to put a video clip of Sarah Palin competing in the swimsuit competition in the Miss Alaska contest in 1984 on its Web site has refused to make the tape public.
Times Editor Russ Stanton said the paper would not make the video public because "it was provided to us by a confidential source on the condition that we not release it." That's the fourth different explanation the newspaper has offered.
Michael Malone, one of the country's leading technology writers, said he's embarrassed to admit he's a journalist because "the sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling."
The problem hasn't been the tough reporting on Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. Malone wrote for the ABC News Web site Oct. 24. It's been the virtual absence of such reporting on the Democrats:
"Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview?" Mr. Malone asked. "All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden's endless gaffes almost always covered up?
"If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (at least who will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography," Mr. Malone said.