A matter of timing

There are times when an idea is offered up that immediately resonates, provokes thought, carries the weight of truth and insight and just can't be ignored.

In the December issue of The Atlantic, an article by Andrew Sullivan required a second read. It's a show stopper about Barack Obama titled, "Goodbye to All That," and offers an insightful analysis of our time and of Obama's candidacy.

"In politics, timing matters," writes Sullivan, "and the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting... Obama's candidacy...is a potentially transformational one."

Sullivan goes onto to explain that Obama is of another generation, tempered not in the 60's but decades later, whose vision is of the new millennium and not mired in the acrimonious schisms and endless debates between liberals and conservatives, between red states and blue. This long, debilitating Boomer debate (the lefties vs. the righties) has framed much of national discourse since the Vietnam war, was a shroud over the 2004 election wherein Vietnam was once again resurrected with a vengeance (recall the Swift Boat ads), and still haunts our national discourse. It's demise is long overdue.

Then Sullivan writes a startling paragraph that all but leapt off the page: "Consider this hypothetical. It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man &

Barack Obama &

is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can."

Consider what such a moment would mean not only to the world but what it would say about America to Americans. First, it would be a stunning repudiation of the residual attitudes of racism, prejudice and discrimination which have haunted the country since slavery. As a nation, we reject the idea that the color of a person's skin should ever be cause for judgment. Yet we also know that since the days of Reconstruction, racism, insidious and vile, has shaped opinion and law. And is still with us.

It's time to turn the page. We are a people who reject racism and discrimination in any form. We resist attempts to scapegoat. We can solve the seemingly intractable problem of illegal immigration in a realistic and fair-minded manner, acknowledging that it is a Gordian knot that does not led itself to easy solutions.

We will lead (as opposed to drag and stall, which has been the modus operandi of this administration) in the battle against global warming. America can go green. We will be a nation that insists that unless attacked, diplomacy will always be our first and most viable response to international discord. We will never argue, contrary to conventions and laws, that torture should be an instrument of interrogation. We will acknowledge that there are some things that government can do well; the private sector is no panacea. Government can protect us and our water and our air and run our parks and vigilantly check imports of toys and medicines and foods. America can be a place where health care is universal and 47 million people are not left behind. We will retool and refinance public education and make it first rate, rejecting the shallow promises of this administration which continues to leave generations of our children behind. And, of course, there's the billion-a-week, thousands killed and wounded war that continues with no end in sight.

For America to elect Barack Obama would be to commit to a new direction. One that is long overdue. Perhaps the electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire are beginning to realize what is at stake, hence Obama is moving up in the polls. And the Clintons are feeling pressed by his numbers.

As a result, their campaign reps are beginning to show an ugly, politics of personal destruction edge. Hillary's campaign manager attempted to focus on Obama's drug use as an adolescent, even implying he was a dealer. They've gone so far as to denigrate his kindergarten wish to be president.

Recently, Bill Clinton insisted that electing Obama would be a "roll of the dice for America." Suddenly the kinder, gentler Hillary and her backstop, Bill, are sounding like old pols who never met a direct question they couldn't evade and were ready to insist that politics is hardball and if you can't take some heat, then step out of the batter's box or was that the kitchen while cookies baked in the oven? That was Hillary's metaphor some weeks back.

It's been said before, and over the next nine months it will oft be repeated: the election of 2008 is momentous, a seminal moment in the history of America. To find another time where the confluence of issues and events reached such critical mass you would have to reach back to the final years of the Great Depression and the election of FDR. The outcome of this national election will set a course for our nation that will either bring about profound change or more of the same. The time has long since passed when more of the same is viable.

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