"People are hungry for change"
- Senator Barack Obama
Yesterday in Seattle, Senator Obama nailed the central issue in the Presidential campaign when he said," People are hungry for change."
Sen. Barack Obama appeared in Seattle on Friday to recruit thousands of paying supporters to something he said was bigger than his campaign for president.
He compared his campaign to the civil-rights movement, saying the same sense of purpose that led Americans to join with Southern blacks in the 1960s is how America battled its biggest problems, from abolishing slavery to ending the Vietnam War.
"That's how things happen in this country," he yelled in a full-pitch close to his 30-minute speech at a raucous rally at Qwest Field Event Center.
"That is how we are not going to just win an election in 2008, we are going to transform this country of ours."
He's right. Voters want real change. Voters want real leadership. While the Republicans are busy looking for their next President Reagan, Democrats are busy looking for their next President Clinton and they have found him in Senator Obama.
Obama is simply the best public speaker running for President. Period.
If Clinton was the first black president, then Obama is the black Clinton. Last night, he out Clinton-ed Clinton. Obama was inspiring, humorous and charming. He lived up to that overplayed but accurate "Rock Star" nickname. Obama had the crowd hooting and hollering in response to his motivating calls to action. He energized the diverse and enthusiastic crowd.
Conservative Andrew Sullivan recently heard Obama speak and asked if Obama is "The Reagan of the Left? ":
And as a simple observer, I really don't see what's stopping him from becoming the next president. The overwhelming first impression that you get - from the exhausted but vibrant stump speech, the diverse nature of the crowd, the swell of the various applause lines - is that this is the candidate for real change. He has what Reagan had in 1980 and Clinton had in 1992: the wind at his back. Sometimes, elections really do come down to a simple choice: change or more of the same?
As I see it, Americans are fed up with this Administration. They are sick of the mind-boggling, "just when you think they can't top it and they do" incompetence. They are sick of the imperial arrogance. They are just waiting Bush and Rove out as their scandal pile grows: the outing of Valerie Plame; and "hecka of a job " Brownie and the White House's botched response to Katrina. Americans are ashamed of our lightweight, head lawyer Alberto Gonzales cheerleading for torture and his "the dog ate my paper" US attorney scandal. And of course, there's the war. Most Americans are sick of this current Administration. Sick. Of. It. Even conservatives like Peggy Noonan are sick of it. Sick of Bush.
President Bush rose to power masquerading as a uniter. Bush's team were dividers using a familiar litany of dog-whistle threats and bogeymen: abortion, the gays and same-sex marriage, the ten commandments, evildoers, etc.
Last night, Obama reminded us that we really aren't as divided as the right would like us to believe. As the clock runs out on these cockroaches, America prepares to reverse eight years of mismanagement and elect someone who can lead them to the promised land. Last night that person was Obama.
Like those of us in Seattle last night, Sullivan was also struck by Obama's "this is not who are," message:
At a couple of points in his speech, he used the phrase: "This is not who we are." I was struck by the power of those words. He was reasserting that America is much more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Katrina and fear and obstinacy and isolation. And so he makes an argument for change in the language of restoration. The temperamental conservatives in America hear a form of patriotism; and the ideological liberals hear a note of radicalism. It's a powerful, unifying theme. He'd be smart to deepen and broaden it.
Last night, Obama did deepen and broaden it. Obama told us that we can turn the page. He reminded us that, as a country, "we can do better." Obama rejected a "poorer and meaner" America where people who have fallen on hard times are simply "on their own". Obama asked us to rise up to make college affordable again, so we can train the next generation of leaders who can transform America the way their parents and grandparents did.
After mentioning that he would be a President who actually believes in the Constitution, Obama said that Americans are ready to reject cynicism of a country that let's oil companies write our energy policy and let's drug companies dictate our health plans because, "this is not who we are" and "we can do better".
Obama said he wants to end the war that costs us $270 million dollars a day. Obama reminded us that he was ALWAYS against this war and that he's sad that it has turned out as badly as he predicted:
"In 2002, I opposed giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq, and said that a war based not on principle but on politics would lead to a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I wish those words had never come true, but I have stood by them since that day and continue to today."
Obama asked us to help end the genocide in Darfur, to close Guantanamo Bay and to restore habeas corpus. That we needed to do what America used to do, to lead by example again. Obama rejected the use of force as our best tool for international leadership and wants to restore our international role as a "beacon of liberty and justice for the world". Obama concedes that it will be hard work but reminded us that we have a rare moment in time to reverse the course. He asked us to collectively, "put our shoulder to the wheel to change the county".
Sullivan sums up a story that Obama also mentioned last night:
My favorite moment was a very simple one. He referred to the anniversary of the March on Selma, how he went and how he came back and someone (I don't remember who now) said to him:
"That was a great celebration of African-American history."
To which Obama said he replied:
"No, no, no, no, no. That was not a great celebration of African-American history. That was a celebration of American history."
There's a reason for his wide appeal. The over-whelming question for me at this point in this historic campaign is a simple one: who will stop him?
For those who are sure to carp, "what about substance?". This week Obama released his health care plan. He has plans about: energy, ending the war, caring for our veterans, immigration and battling voter suppression.
Fellow Huffpo Taylor Marsh felt his electricity yesterday in Las Vegas:
If Obama gets to the general no one can beat him. Yes. He is that good.
On a more personal note, every Democrat who has met President Clinton has their "I can't believe how charming he is" story. How Clinton remembered their name. How Clinton made them feel like the only person in the room. How Clinton asked about their ailing Mom or if their kid got into Georgetown.
Well, Obama is that kind of candidate. He has that kind of personal charm. I first met the Senator last October during his book tour in Seattle. He was so popular here that scalpers sold tickets to his book signing that had sold out in hours.
A few weeks later, he met my dad, NBA legend Bill Russell. They met at the groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King' Jr.s DC Memorial. Obama mentioned to my dad how he had enjoyed meeting me. Like any proud dad, he was thrilled that this daughter had made a good impression on someone. I thought it was cool that Obama mentioned meeting me to him. It was classic Clinton. And like President Clinton - it felt authentic and genuine.
I brought my dad to see Obama again last night. It was on the heels of the New York Times story about Obama and basketball. I felt like I was watching a meeting of a mutual admiration society. They talked about political issues, rebounding, and the NBA finals.
Later, after hearing Obama speak, dad shook Obama's hand and said, "I'm not going to tell you good luck. You are good and it is better to be good than lucky."
Yes, Obama is that good.