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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Barack Attack: Why Barack Obama Can and Will Be the Next President of the United States

(This week's article is brought to you by Saj. Saj and I are in the midst of a month long baseball preview over at Around the Blog, so make sure to check it out. Below, you'll see a very optimistic and well-written take on Senator Barack Obama's campaign.)
Not Black Enough?

Two days after Barack Obama appeared on 60 minutes for a lengthy piece with Bob Kroft (watch here), I sent the following email to Ian:

“So Obama goes on TV and admits to cocaine and marijuana use, smoking Marlboro reds, never knowing his father, being raised by his grandparents, and attending a Baptist church and he STILL has to answer questions about if he's black enough? He's a gunshot wound and a weight room away from being 50 cent.”

And the above statement I made to Ian, admittedly in hyperbolic jest, is as patently absurd as the idea of a “not black enough” Barack Obama. Ethnic identity, as an umbrella distinction of “the black experience”, in America is ever-shifting and it’s certainly not up to guys like Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News (who said, “…so when black Americans refer to Obama as "one of us," I do not know what they are talking about…” in a 11/06/06 editorial) to decide what’s what for the black community.

To be fair, Barack Obama does not share an ancestry with the majority of black Americans (a Kenyan father, a Kansan mother, raised by well-to-do white grandparents in Hawaii), and he’s not black in the way Bill Clinton was (socioeconomically) but in the way he is seen by white America, he’s as black as O.J. And if you want to talk about representing the interests of black Americans: Alan Keyes is a better example? Barack Obama is a highly qualified, highly intelligent, African-American candidate with a very strong background in civil rights and oratory skills that may be unrivaled by any politician in America. And Stanley Crouch is a hack columnist who wrote a poorly thought out column to sell newspapers. Honestly, who writes for the Daily News? That’s not even the Village Voice.

Dirty Laundry
This was probably Obama’s best played hand so far. He aired the skeletons out early and in an understated enough manner where it was as much a non-issue as it could have been. Maybe it’s just time mellowing the nation to personal vice from its public figures. A decade ago Bill Clinton’s sheepish “I didn’t inhale” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” entered the public lexicon at the exact inflection point where the news media was getting more and more pervasive and America still held romantic notions of its Presidents. Sure Harding was a womanizer and Reagan was probably addicted to Oxycontin (unsubstantiated) but we never heard about it. Now the right play is to admit, repent, and go about your business.

Take good old G.W. The man had substance abuse issues in his past, and in the history of stereotypical indicators of a weak will, substance abuse ranks above both compulsive eating and indecisiveness. And he’s the (shudder) President. In the next five months, Barack Obama could publish a book where he very soberly admits to snorting cocaine off an eleven year old boy in Phnom Penh in the summer of 2003 and by 2008 it would be old news. Perception trumps truth, which is why Al Gore was incorrectly demonized for a misquote regarding his invention of the Internet and why G.W. has an unhealthy fascination with birthday party clowns that can do simple slight of hand magic tricks (i.e. making the WMDs disappear from Iraq.)

And a fantastic asset Obama has in his arsenal is his relative lack of dirty laundry in regard to his political record. As a first term Senator he’s had little time to get himself into hot water. And his pre-Senate political career can play a beneficial role. Where Mitt Romney has his pro-choice past to live down in the GOP, Obama has an incredibly prescient statement from October 2002, as an Illinois State Senator, against going to war with Iraq. No other candidate can make that claim.

Oration, Intelligence, Appeal: Bringing Sexy Barack

As far as “Presidential qualities” go, Obama has them. A calm demeanor, a relaxed easy voice, and the ability to think faster than he speaks, all of which are evidenced by his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He had the ear of the nation and he absolutely nailed it. A speech like that, the grassroots message, the immigrant story, the “One America” theme that was pervasive throughout, belongs in the annals of great American speeches, leagues ahead of “Mission Accomplished” and “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie” and, for good measure, “don’t denigrate Poland.”

And he’s smart. Very smart. Clinton-smart. Obama was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and that’s an impressive position for even the most entitled white student to hold. Plus he looked GREAT in a bathing suit.

The Bottom Line
Fox News is afraid enough of Obama to take a few swipes at him, and that has to be a good thing. As an articulate black candidate (Joe Biden, anyone?), Obama has a reservoir of cross-ethnic appeal but it has to be tapped delicately and appropriately. America is still a country where a black, Hispanic, or Asian candidate is at a disadvantage and if Obama proves to be too “white” or too “black” he could be a liability for the Democratic party as a Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate.

For the moment his star is shining very brightly and I do not see it dimming as substantially as some are saying it will. Maybe I am too optimistic about the state of this country, but I think America is ready to elect a guy named Barack Hussein Obama as our 44th President.
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