A scene from today’s backyard townhall in New Mexico, the latest in a series of events aimed at showing that he feels America’s pain or whatever. Ideally he’d politely demur here on grounds that it isn’t anyone’s business, but political reality is what it is so here’s his brief apologia. And in fairness, he asked for questions like this by campaigning the way he did in 2008. As Ben Smith notes, Hopenchange has always been more about the man himself than his agenda:

This isn’t just some side-issue, or an artifact of the media environment. It’s core to what got Obama elected. He ran, more than any other candidate in memory, on his identity. He cast himself in his 2004 Convention speech as the embodiment of a more united nation, his potential to be the first black president inspired supporters of all races, and many of the most compelling moments of his campaign were the ones where he grappled with questions of his own identity, and of America’s, as in the race speech in Philadelphia…

I’m not sure how he finds a way out of this trap, which was of his own devising, but … he needs to find a way to get the spotlight off himself.

Does he? The way things are going, keeping the spotlight on him and away from his policies is his only shot at being reelected. (His job approval rating has been underwater for months but his favorables are still net positive.) In any case, I’m curious to see how reader reaction will shake out on this. My guess is that there’ll be a split between groups, those who think his answer is horrible for whatever reason and those who think his answer is a little too good and must have been pre-planned as a way to defuse the endless lame speculation about whether he’s a secret Muslim. Exit question: Good answer or bad?