Thursday, September 4, 2008

Experience of being right

Let me start by conceding that I would prefer that Obama had more experience with all the issues of the day. At the start of his campaign, I'm sure he knew that his chances were slim, that Hillary had left him only a small opening in her inevitability, that the most likely outcome of the 2008 campaign was national notice for a later campaign.

If all other things were equal, more experience might become decisive. Of course, Obama is a brilliant orator, much better than Bill Clinton, the best speech-making politician since JFK at least. But I can leave aside the delivery of speeches for a moment, even though communication and inspiration are very important parts of a President's job.

The crafting of Obama's speeches shows an intelligence far beyond what Americans are used to hearing. All the time, we hear words come out of Duhbya's mouth and even McCain's mouth that clearly are formulas their speechwriters and political advisers want them to say. They don't own these words. They just read them - badly - off a teleprompter.

Obama owns all his words. They're his thoughts, his policies, his cadences, his vocabulary, his references. The media loves McCain because they used to get the top of his head, even if that changed from day to day. Obama's character comes through in the text of his speeches, and that is very good.

Bill Clinton had a factual mastery that escapes all the Republicans on the scene today except for Dick Cheney. Clinton could shape that mastery into narrative, though not as well as Obama. Cheney can fashion it into bureaucratic infighting par excellence. Oh, and into war.

Sarah Palin has none of this.

Bush aide Matthew Scully was largely responsible for the speech.
After twenty months, she has mastery of Alaska. Maybe. She has a colorful back story, and she wears her lipstick better than a pit bull. She has the experience of being right, hard right. And wrong about practically everything. Her political biography, like Duhbya's before it, is a tissue of convenient, attractive lies. Reformer? Nope. Foreign policy? Don't make me laugh. She's a demographic patch on McCain's political infirmities, nothing more.

Obama, to the contrary, has the experience of being right about the great political issues of our day. The war in Iraq was wrong. Government by that's-tough-you're-on-your-own Republicans is the wrong kind of government. He even knew, unlike Palin, that abstinence is important but not enough.

He is the right person for this time even if he's a tad early to the party. The only question is whether America has the wit and goodness to see this.

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