Bill Steigerwald

After writing three major cover stories about Barack Obama’s books, his speeches and his tony Chicago neighborhood, Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard probably knows as much about Sen. Obama as any conservative writer and reporter can know at this point.

Ferguson’s first piece, “The Literary Obama” on Feb. 12, 2007, was a double review of Obama’s 1995 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” which he found praiseworthy for many artistic and intellectual reasons, and Obama’s 200x campaign book “The Audacity of Hope,” which Ferguson found stereotypically dull and ruined by its super-cautious politics.

On March 24 of this year Ferguson’s examined the “The Timeless Wit & Wisdom of Barack Obama” and found that a lot of his best political phrases sounded, well, very, very familiar. The cover of the latest Weekly Standard carries “Mr. Obama’s Neighborhood,” the results of Ferguson’s recent visit to Hyde Park, the unique, upscale Chicago neighborhood Sen. Obama has lived in most of his adult life. I talked to Ferguson on Wednesday by phone from his offices in Washington.

Q: They haven’t officially given you the Barack Obama beat at the Weekly Standard have they?

A: No. (laughs)

Q: Which of your “studies” of Obama’s life told you most about his character?

A: First of, it was early on very apparent to me that he was going to be the most interesting candidate that the country had seen in a presidential race in a long time. I always thought he had a chance to win. I had been watching him in that sense for quite a while. By far the most revealing thing about him is the books that he wrote. Anyone who rally wants to understand Obama has to read those books, particularly the first one, which is a straight out memoir that was written – well, I don’t know if could say it was written before he was considering running for president, because I think that occurred to him when he was about four, and he’s been doing it ever since; but it was written in more of a free-wheeling sort of way than the second book, which has a lot of policy wonkery in it. I think anybody who reads that book will get an excellent sense of who Obama is as a person and how he wants to present himself to people.

Q: What would be the best qualities that shine through?

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..