Don't Take Anything Otherwise for Granted

06/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Watching the speeches of Barack Obama and John McCain Tuesday night made it tempting to consider this race for the White House in the bag. That would be a terrible mistake.

There was Obama, in his element, radiating charisma, confidence, and the country's most telegenic smile before thousands of adoring supporters, eloquently calling the country to its better self. And there was McCain, looking uncomfortable in his own skin, sputtering out his words as if they made even himself nervous, before a crowd that appeared to number well into the dozens.

Today's front page features the latest McCain campaign debacle, with McCain flip flopping back and forth repeatedly on the candidate's position of warrant-less government wiretapping. The whole ridiculous sequence of self-contradiction ended with McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds calling the New York Times to clarify everything, helpfully stating that "to the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn't be read into as anything otherwise."

There goes the Straight Talk Express off the rails and over the cliff.

After you stop laughing, here is some food for thought.

Eight years ago, the Democrats ran Al Gore: smart, likeable, articulate, southern, and the VP in an administration that retained a high approval rating through thick and thin. The Republicans nominated an idiot who couldn't form a complete sentence, was a spectacularly failed businessman, and was the son of an unpopular one-term president.

Four years ago that same idiot ran for reelection saddled with a war that was already deeply unpopular. The idiot draft dodger, who got out of serving in the Vietnam war because of his daddy' connections, ran against a Vietnam war hero.

Twenty-eight years ago the Republicans nominated a really bad movie actor. We're not even talking Fred Thompson here. We're talking GE commercials and movies like Bedtime for Bonzo. In 2008, the fact that Reagan was president for 8 years and redrew the US political map is such a salient feature of contemporary American history that it is difficult to remember how unthinkable it was at the time. Ronald Reagan for President? What a laugh!

All of this is to say that you never know what the future holds in American politics. Between now and November, anything can happen. If, like me, you think that the Barack Obama candidacy is the most inspiring and exciting moment in national politics in your adult life, now is not the time to smirk. Now is the time to get to work and not let up. And don't be lulled into complacency by anything otherwise.