I had a spirited discussion with a couple of friends from work today when I shared with them my prediction (for today, at least) that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States (over my dissenting vote). One of them, a conservative, was hung up on the fact that he seems, to her at least, an inexperienced "empty suit," getting by on personal charisma. The other, one of my favorite libs, called her a racist for saying so.
Here's my take on Obama--if a Democrat has to win (and this looks like their year), he's better than the other two. To say I have concerns about Hillary Clinton's integrity is understatement of the year. And in my mind, John Edwards, the "two Americas" guy who gets $400 haircuts and lives in the 28,000 square-foot mansion, is not much, if any, better in the integrity department. And it's not fair to hold Obama's less than one term in the senate against him, when Edwards has barely one, and Hillary has one and change (and both have spent some portion of that limited time running for president). Suffice it to say that we are definitely going to have a Democratic nominee with little experience this year.
The main thing in Obama's favor is that half the country won't automatically hate his guts as they would Hillary. And that, if nothing else, counts for something after 16 years of impeached Clinton and vilified Bush 43. Indeed, were there not this little war thing going on (and possibly up to 4 supreme court seats coming open in the next 4-8 years), that, in itself, might be enough.
There's also the race thing. He's perfect there--a black politician who owes no homage to the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton axis. He gives us all the benefit of getting over that historical hump with hardly any of the bite.
However, let's not kid ourselves about how much he would "unite" America. He gives a good speech, but he's not going to find some new middle ground on the war on terror, or abortion, or other hot-button issues. He wants us to "unite" around traditional liberal positions. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.
Either way, he is, if not an empty suit, at least a clean slate. Lots of folks have written their hopes and dreams on that slate. And he may fulfill them, beautifully, or he may fall flat on his face. But that has little to do with what we see on the campaign trail. A vote for Obama is a dice roll. But the Democrats had their chances--they could have chosen a Biden, or a Richardson. If he (as I think/hope) emerges from what's left of the field as the last man standing, that's the choice before us as a nation. But if my principles have to come in second, I'd rather it be to what appears to be a good, honest guy than a crook or a fraud.