How I almost saw the Light

It seems to me that President Obama may soon be responsible for a new English word.

“Obama — oh-bah-mah: Failure to follow through characterized by, showing a, or proceeding from lack of thought or deceit; empty or vacant; derived from the 44th president of the United States known for lofty promises resulting in no action.”

I ask you on the morning after that whopper of a State of the Union address, is there anyone in America who honestly believes President Obama is now a spending restraint kind of guy? After a year of draining trillions of dollars out of the treasury, he’s now going to start putting a few pennies back?

That’s about as believable as Obama’s grass-roots support in the form of “Ellie Light.”

The story of “Ellie Light” is the perfect “Obama,” to use the word coined above.

“Ellie Light” had sent a letter-to-the-editor to her local newspaper defending the president. Nothing remarkable about that, except she sent hundreds of letters, claiming different hometowns to make editorial page gatekeepers think she was a local Obama supporter.

At last count, “Ellie’s” spirited defense of the president made it into 40-plus newspapers.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer first exposed the scam, followed by Fox News and a host of others in the blogosphere. Some questioned the existence of “Ellie Light” and suggested it might be a case of liberal “astroturfing,” meaning an attempt to make it look like a real grass-roots support for the president.

The “Ellie Light” story didn’t interest me much at first. Letter writing scammer and overworked newspaper editors. Ho-hum.

Then guess who e-mailed me — not once, but twice — on the day before the president’s speech? “Ellie Light” sent me two identical e-mails at 3 a.m. in which she complained about newspapers who were PO’d about her letter-writing scam.

She wrote: “My name is Ellie Light, and Gannett Wisconsin Media has officially apologized to Fox News for publishing my letter. Michele Malkin’s website, based in Washington DC, had objected to my letter’s publication in Wisconsin media, because it wasn’t written by a Wisconsin resident.”

“Ellie” then attached her original letter and invited me to publish it. She gave no hometown, but included a phone number.

So, what the heck. It was a travel day. I found myself at mid-morning in the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix with plenty of time to kill, so I called her.

“Ellie?”

“Yes?” she answered in a very deep voice.

I introduced myself, explained why I was calling, and then blurted, “Are you a man or a woman?”

I mentally kicked myself as I said it, thinking: What kind of dumb question is that? But too late. I asked it and “Ellie” replied: “Can’t you tell?”

“No, I can’t tell,” I said, letting the odd response pass. I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot any more than I already had, so I said it didn’t matter, I had received the letter and I wanted to get more details about it.

“Ellie” then proceeded to sound downright evasive when it came to specifics and volunteered she was short of time because she was in an airport awaiting a flight.

“What airport?” I said.

“Phoenix.”

“Phoenix? What airline are you flying?”

“Southwest.”

“Well, hey. I’m flying Southwest out of Phoenix today, too. I’m at gate 4. How about we have a cup of coffee and sort this deal out.”

“Ellie” paused, stuttered initially when pressed about what gate she was at (gate 13, she eventually admitted) and sounded reluctant to meet face-to-face. After I told her I’d come to her, she said she’d come to me.

One hour later and after a second call, I received the same assurances that she was “on her way.” “Ellie” never showed.

I’m disappointed about being stood up. I would have liked to have asked her about the controversy. Maybe even shoot a picture of the deep-voiced “Ellie,” who I imagined might look like the Liev Schreiber character in the movie “Mixed Nuts.”

But alas, “Ellie” couldn’t make the 9-gate trek to verify her story.

Subsequently, she’s told other reporters that she’s a traveling nurse and her real name is Barbara Brooks. She has called in to liberal radio shows to defend Obama and contends that she’s in no way part of any sort of “astroturfing.”

She’s just an honest-to-goodness, hard-working, deep-throated itinerant nurse by day; and a real live Obama supporter by night, who innocently sent hundreds of spam letters and 3 a.m. e-mails to newspapers using a fake name and a fake hometown.

How so very “Obama.”

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media. His column normally appears Sunday.

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