I've had my fun with the Obama campaign's seal, and now that fun ends. I'm told that Obama recognizes that it was a silly mistake, that the universal reaction at Wacker and Michigan was, "Boy, was that dumb," and that they don't think the seal staging will matter to actual voters.

Does the press think Obama is arrogant? Yes. Does the seal represent arrogance? Only tangentially, actually. The worry for Obama's image managers is that it gives the press a pretext to call Obama arrogant, an example for them to add to a list of arrogant moments, and a way to distract them from what Obama is saying. Obama, as I've written, is certainly more confident than the average Democratic presidential candidate. He doesn't particularly care about making nice with his traveling press corps, and he is personally disciplined and self-contained. Just like McCain's staff is remarkably sensitive to how the press covers their candidate, Obama's staff is hyperattentive to Obama's public image. They want him to appear strong and presidential; they want him to appear loyal and patriotic and down-to-earth; they take a broad view of history and try to make sure that Obama falls on the right side of it; they are protective to a fault; unlike McCain, Obama generally does not operate outside his comfort zone, and his political instincts are very cautious and risk-averse. Some Obama aides are enraptured by the idea of an Obama brand that transcends politics; others, including most of those who are actually close to the candidate, are much, much more concerned with the type of hubris that all the talk of an Obama brand actually encourages.

All of which is to say that if you were to exchange brains with your typical Obama staffer, you can kind of see how designing a new seal seems cool and presidential, and you can also realize that those closest to the candidate don't vet every single stage prop that appears with the candidate, and you can feel a little sympathy for the staffer who has to explain to Valerie Jarrett just what the hell he or she was thinking when the seal was approved.

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