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Hoping For, and With, Obama [Updated]

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Update: Well, Hillary won New Hampshire, not by an enormous amount, but she won it. Some of what I wrote below was based on what "seemed" to be happening with Obama, and the fact he had been ahead in the polls in New Hampshire.

But the polls were wrong, and clearly the American voters want to keep looking at the candidates; and in the morning light (and after looking at some of the angrier comments to my post), I think that's a good thing. I plead guilty to having offered Obama a coronation too early. (And I've learned "coronate" isn't a verb. Can't we make it one, lol?) I still am very interested in his candidacy, but I, like the rest of you, am going to watch and see what happens in the future weeks. So congratulations to Hillary Clinton. Oh, and I also like John Edwards by the way.

Oh, fellow baby boomers, please don't be offended. I'm a baby boomer also, I hardly meant to suggest baby boomers should drop out of life or work or politics. I just found the image of 16 years of baby boomer Bill Clinton (who I like) and George W. Bush (who... well, you know) made me long a bit for someone younger than the 60 year old boomers. I didn't know that there was a definition of baby boomers that goes up to people born through 1964. Though that's a definition made by the U.S. census bureau. And it doesn't "feel" right to me. Looking at the boomers now in their late 50s and early 60s, all of us formed by the 1950s and anti-communism and the Vietnam war, do they "seem" the same generation as Obama? Not to me.

* * *

Barack Obama did not have me at hello. Though I was certainly interested in his candidacy. And was watching him, paying attention.

The day of the Iowa caucuses I had heard that the polls showed Clinton-Obama-Edwards in a dead heat, but then I'd started to hear that maybe Obama was pulling ahead a bit, or maybe Edwards was, or maybe both.

I didn't watch the coverage until 11 or so, but when I turned on the TV, I was startled and then happy when I heard Obama was predicted to be the winner, and by a fairly large margin. And apparently independents were going for Obama in a big way. I felt myself enormously relieved to hear that he was winning, and that he had been drawing independents.

And then when in a couple hours, he indeed was the winner, with Edwards second, and Hillary third, I felt more relieved.

And then I heard Obama's speech that night after his win, and he got me. He didn't have me at hello, but he had me with that speech.

And with the feeling he was new enough and broad enough in his appeal that he could expand his popularity to independents who were sick of Republicans but not in love with traditional Democrats.

And it was such a RELIEF to see Obama and his wife and their two young children up there -- it was hard for me not to flash on John F. Kennedy and his wife and their two young children in 1961 (when I was 12). It seemed a relief to be looking again at a candidate who was in his 40s, and had that energy.

I'm a baby boomer, and I think Bill Clinton did a lot that was good with his presidency, and I think George W. Bush is a disgraceful, dangerous president who should be impeached (with Cheney; and there's still time). But in any case, I'm tired of the baby boomers. We've had 16 years of two of them, and enough already. I'd like the next generation down, which is what Obama is.

I hope that Obama wins New Hampshire tonight, as the polls suggest he will.

I do agree with some of the pundits who point out the media is rushing to coronate Obama a bit too much, too fast.

And yet I also agree with those on TV who are reacting to some "new feeling" in the country around this particular candidacy. And reacting to the size and enthusiasm of the crowds who come out to see him.

For me I felt a kind of flash point with Obama in Iowa -- I had been split between Clinton-Obama-Edwards, considering all three of them; and I also secretly wished people would give Biden, Dodd and Kucinich a real look, and thought it unjust they wouldn't.

(And how I love Dodd for single-handedly threatening a filibuster to stop that bill giving phone companies retroactive indemnity for spying on us all illegally. And he succeeded in stopping it for the time being. And I hope he'll do it again if he needs to, and others will join him.)

But the flash point was -- it's wrong to do the Bush, Clinton, Bush II, Clinton II thing, no matter how gifted and intelligent Ms. Clinton is. (There's lots that's admirable and brilliant about her. But she is -- or seems, but probably is -- incredibly calculating in her positions, and the American public is correct to see that in her, and to distrust it. I also worry about her war positions.)

It felt like a flash point because I didn't know I felt this way until Obama won in Iowa and I saw him there with his younger family, and I felt this relief and hope.

And the relief and hope also came from the fact that, so far, he is drawing in independents. I really want our Democratic candidate to draw in people outside traditional Democratic voters.

When the Bush-Kerry 2004 race finished, the vote was approximately 51/49. (Though I still believe Ohio was stolen, but that's about the electoral college and not about the split in our populace.)

And it seemed that 51/49 was how this conservative/liberal split stays in our country, with lots of real and serious disagreements. A very close split with the conservatives seemingly in the lead by those few points.

And with Bush being so unpopular, one has to realize his bad poll numbers are not just from liberals, but from evangelicals who feel let down, by fiscal conservatives furious with his spending (I agree, especially about the price of the pigheaded, wrong war), by people angered by the thorny problem of immigration, etc. etc. Some of the people fed up with Bush still don't like traditional Democrats.

So when I thought of Hillary Clinton being the nominee, I believed Hillary could possibly win in the general election, but I had a feeling it would be by a few, harrowing points. Another 51/49 split. Another hair-trigger election.

And for the sake of our country, I would so love to have the win be much larger. And for more people to feel good about the Democratic candidate than just all the usual Democrats. And with Obama (though it's admittedly early) that seems possible.

I was very moved by that speech he gave. The clips on the news don't do it justice -- it helped to hear the whole thing, because it built. And it was inclusive and was choosing to move past the red state/blue state divide. As he said, he wants to be president of the United States. Not the polarized states of America.

I'm very excited by the possibility Obama could become president. I so hope it comes to pass, and that it ends up being as good for the country as it seems right now it may be.

* * *

A bit of a coda about Hillary Clinton. She was complicated, funny and moving at the Saturday debate when she was asked about the fact that voters, in polls, just don't find her likable. And she said "Well that hurts my feelings" -- and it was wonderfully complex, because it was true, though she was also being a bit humorous in saying it, and also it was an impossible question to answer. The moment had pathos in it, but it also had a spark to it. It was very likable and human. And the camera caught Chelsea smiling in the audience at her mother's response.

And I heard the news about her getting teary in some of her responses yesterday, and that also humanized her. I mean, the candidates are all so exhausted, who wouldn't get teary? I have though also heard some of the attacks she tried on Obama yesterday, via Keith Olbermann's Countdown and via Arianna Huffington's post. And Hillary dangling the hypothetical attack by Al Qaeda at the beginning of a new president's term - and what? how she'd be prepared, and he wouldn't? -- that seems a very right-wing way to try to win a point. So I must say I haven't admired that.

But watching her in that Saturday debate, I felt the oddness of fate and timing. I remember when she suddenly moved to New York in order to qualify to run for Senator from New York, all of us in the country knew it was in preparation for running for the president. Though why not? She was going out to seek appropriate experience. And by all reports, she's been a very good Senator. And she's also worked with many people across the aisle too, which is impressive.

And if there weren't a sudden Barack Obama who showed up (or if he had chosen to sit this one out, as much "conventional wisdom" suggested he should do), her chances for winning the nomination and maybe the presidency were pretty high.

But with this other possibility -- Obama -- she seems an imperfect choice, not in synch with the zeitgeist. (And we all know how very hard it is to get in synch with the zeitgeist, I struggle with it every morning.) But that image on Iowa caucus night of Hillary surrounded by Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright indeed jumped out, as many in the media pointed out; it seemed like coming attractions to the past.

I guess I feel bad for Ms. Clinton for the bad timing (unless, of course, she surprises us in the coming weeks, and/or Obama makes any super bad mistakes). She's smart and worthwhile, but I don't think the time is right for her.