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Oliver Stone's "Obama"

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At the end of Oliver Stone's biopic, just before Nixon resigns in disgrace, he delivers a powerful line.

Standing in front of the White House portrait of John Kennedy, he says: "When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are."

We're at that summing up moment of the 2008 Presidential election, before we know the outcome, but probably most of it has already happened, and that seems to be the choice we have made in the last two elections, and the choice facing us in the next one. Vote for who we are or who we want to be?

I probably would enjoy having a coffee with either of the two candidates, but the conversation with Obama would be more interesting. I got an idea of what that would be like last night when he sat down for an extensive interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. She's singularly intelligent and thoughtful and earnest, and it was clear that Obama knew that and spoke to her intelligence, saying more than candidates usually say in interviews, I thought.

And the things he said were true, they weren't pandering. About deficits, he said the terrible thing about the Bush deficit is that we're not getting anything in return. No new industries, no updated roads, it hasn't been used to retrain the workforce for the 21st century, or convert our gasoline-based economy, or pay for health care.

There's no doubt we're going to be running a big deficit during the next four years, either way, but it's good to know that if Obama is elected, the money we borrow will be spent to upgrade the US economy and workforce. He's focused on the right things for the coming years. Whether it will work or not is another thing, but with Obama at least we have a chance.

During the Bush years the American traveler in Europe would hear that they don't understand why we elected and then re-elected Bush. I think it's because very few Europeans when they visit the US, go to the countryside of say Missouri or Ohio or Pennsylvania or rural Florida. The people who live here, as you now know, often choose our Presidents. To these people, we in the American cities seem foreign and its easy for Republican politicians to get them to blame us for their difficulties. I think this has happened in Europe too, btw. It's not a new thing or an American thing.

That's also why Obama, if he's elected, deserves a chance to try to heal the wounds between these two Americas.

Of course we're seeing more and more how interdependent our economies and societies are. The biggest problems facing each country actually face all countries equally. And like it or not, the American economy is still very important to the rest of the world. This is the saving grace for our country, and it's why it's in everyone's interest, I think, to see us get back on track. One way or another, that must happen.

Going back to the Nixon soliloquy -- when the people in rural America see Obama, they see who scares them, they see the future that one way or another, is coming. In that way Obama is like Nixon; when they look at him they see who they really are. When they look at McCain they see who they want to be. In urban America, it's exactly the opposite. We look at Obama and see who we want to be and look at McCain and worry that's who we really are.

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