Which Southern Senator Called President Obama 'Exotic'?

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Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, created Congress's very own blind item on Wednesday during a meeting with the Des Moines Register's editorial board. The Senator, who refused to name names while describing a closed-door Senate meeting about filibuster rules last month, offered up the following juicy detail from behind the scenes.

Harkin: ...And, not naming any names, but one senator got up from a southern state and said, ‘You’ve got to understand that to my people down here, Obama seems like – he thought for a second and he said – like he’s exotic.’

We kind of laughed at that – what’s that mean? Exotic? That he’s just exotic, that he doesn’t share our values and that kind of thing. It was kind of a strange comment.

Des Moines Register editor Rick Green: Exotic in terms of values or in terms of race? How do you describe or define ‘exotic?’

Basu: Do they still think he’s a Muslim or wasn’t born in this country? Do they still spout those kinds of theories?

Harkin: Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know. He never explained it. Everybody just kind of laughed at the idea of exotic. 

While Harkin did not specify the party of the nameless senator (only that he is, well, a he, and Southern), many are presuming that said legislator is from Harkin's opposition, though it was not a Republican. The meeting, regarding Senate filibusters, included the whole chamber, so that doesn't narrow it down either. Unless Harkin changes his mind and decides to name names (or another Senator comes forward), the nameless Southern gentleman who wins today's edition of Congressmen Saying Regrettable Things will probably remain a secret. 

The interview itself covered a wide range of topics, but Harkin's best quotes seem to come from his description of polarization in Congress. When asked whether he could think of a time when the U.S. was more polarized than it is now, Harkin quipped, "Sure – the Civil War."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.