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Dr. Jazz


The emergence of Obama and consequent submergence of Senator Clinton brings to mind Jack Kennedy's 1960 primary beat-down of Hubert H. Humphrey. Hubert had been the faithful liberal shepherd for so long and then here came this force -- this gorgeous athletic rich kid with that tan and those teeth and that hair, Teddy Roosevelt crossed with who, Warren Beatty, and poor Hubert wound up looking like the second guy behind the counter at the drugstore. Like Hillary, he started getting snippy and sad and oddly haunted and for the same reason Nixon looked so spooked around Kennedy: JFK had a way of getting people to obsess about their shortcomings. When he said, "Life is unfair," he knew whence he spoke.

Well, that's what Obama has done to Hillary. That voice of his -- Dr. King meets the "March of Time" -- is like a new national music, a soothing and healing sound that seems to have brought voters out from places where they have hidden for 20 years. It's an unprecedented weapon because we literally have never had a president who sounded like that. Reagan had a rich voice but his eloquence was scripted. This guy orders coffee and you hear a summons to Big Things. Roosevelt had a fabulous instrument, but this is like FDR crossed with Big Joe Williams. You can be informed by it, inspired by it, and you can dance to it. Obama could read the farm reports every morning on the radio and we would all be entranced, we would all feel the wonder of corn and soybeans and oats. No, the reason Hillary turned weepy was not exhaustion; it was just at the unfairness of it all.

And you can see the Obama effect in how testy President Clinton has become. Larry Bird has met Michael Jordan and he knows it down to his toes. All the elbows and all the trash-talking will ultimately be to no avail. If Norman Mailer described JFK's emergence as "Superman Comes to the Supermarket," this is "Dr. Jazz Ends the Civil War."