My favorite moment is when the president mentions someone he’s been talking to. “I had a conversation a couple of weeks back with Robert Putnam,” Obama says, “who I’ve known for a long time.”
Putnam is a renowned sociologist, and the ability to drop his name is a requirement for membership in elite circles. What makes this name-drop special is that Obama not only assumes the reporters know who Putnam is, he amplifies his snobbery by mentioning that the author of Bowling Alone and American Grace has been a personal acquaintance for years, as though that in itself is an achievement, as though that somehow makes the sentence he is about to utter more meaningful.
Just then, though, one of the Times reporters, Michael D. Shear, interrupts the president and says what has to be one of the most beautiful and revealing sentences ever to appear on Nytimes.com:
“He was my professor actually at Harvard.”