Edward McClelland, a frequent Reader contributor who’s covered Barack Obama for this paper in campaigns gone by, offers a few stinging recollections in a critical but ultimately friendly commentary posted Sunday by Salon. DailyKos.com describes McClelland’s piece as “incredibly negative,” but if you think that, you’ve drunk the “Obama juice” McClelland writes about and believe the senator is beyond criticism.

But DailyKos makes an interesting observation. Originally Salon touted the story on its home page with this display copy: “How Obama Learned to Be a Natural: Today he drips with charisma and inspires fawning admiration from all quarters. But Obama began his journey as an uppity young man with little political future.” DailyKos argues that the word uppity in the intro guarantees that McClelland’s story will be read as a slash-and-burn job.

It’s a word that doesn’t appear in the story itself, at least not in the published version. “I did use the word uppity in my original draft–referring to Obama as a cocky young man,” McClelland allows, “but that was changed to ‘presumptuous,’ understandably. I wasn’t thinking of the racial implications when I wrote it. After all, I was talking about one black politician challenging another, so uppity wouldn’t have the same racial connotation in that context.  Maybe the copy editor saw that version and seized on the word…. It definitely influenced the way some readers looked at the piece.”

Smug. Presumptuous. Insults safe in any company.