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America At Juncture And Obama Must Do More Than Talk Politics

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President Obama. God that sounds weird. I certainly never thought I'd hear the like in my day. I had written that I was deeply worried about Obama's chances of winning against a half-sane white Republican in a general election. Luckily, the Republicans didn't nominate one. They nominated John McCain. He's got apologists blaming his pert near schizotic behavior on the fact that he's running a campaign that goes against his "honor," as if former lobbyist and current campaign advisor Rick Davis planted an obedience chip in his brain, robbing him of free will. It's pathetic. It's hilarious. It's more than a little disturbing.

This debate was a rerun. McCain attacked on Fannie and Freddie and earmarks and Pakistan, blaming all of them on Obama and the democrats, but Obama gave as good as he got and sounded like the bigger man in the process. McCain oozed like an infomercial, Obama spoke like a professional. McCain rambled. His speech on health care made as little sense as Sarah Palin. Wooden repetitions of "my friends," and "that's what Americans do!" "We'll get our economy going again!" or "I know how to do it!" accompanied with a forced smile and a tottering gate did not inspire confidence. The camera is not his friend. His rhetoric is old. His ideas are old. He is old.

Obama seemed more focused this time, and his message of middle class resurrection sounded more clearly. Oddly, swatting at McCain's jibes seemed to enliven him, hinting at a bit of spark beneath that calm veneer.

Moment of unintentional hilarity: A cancer survivor saying, "I was on a nuclear powered ship, and I can tell you it's safe."

Yes. Obama is on a path to win it all. That means it's time to continue cheering the candidate even as we start pushing the future President:

During the Democratic primaries, it was fashionable to belittle Bill Clinton for not having rewritten the political landscape a la Reagan. However, Bill Clinton was a brief jiggle in America's conservative swing. He simply did not have the political wind at his back, and when he tried to go against it (with his healthcare proposals or gays in the military), he got clobbered, probably accelerating America's downslide into total conservative rule.

Obama, on the other hand, will have no such excuse. America is at a crisis point, and change is the political mantra, even for Republicans who don't want any. Obama will be blessed with a public primed for comparatively radical shifts and perhaps (please, please, please) significant congressional majorities.

There is more than a spot of Reagan in this half black/half white man. He's got the relentlessly upbeat American rhetoric down pat, and when he turns on the silver tongue, the masses swoon. He has run an extremely confident, professional and disciplined campaign. It has been equally unspectacular. Events have gusted in his favor (as they did with Reagan), and he's had the political skill not to get in their way.

Obama's primary-era "we are the world" rhetoric about bridging divides and squaring liberal/conservative circles was so much garbage. The Republican campaign has proven it. His opponents impugned his patriotism due to the sound of his name and the color of his skin. Do they still deserve consideration equal to that of his supporters? Is he still set on conciliation, on meeting them halfway? That sounds frightfully like what Democrats have been doing for the past 20 years. It sounds exactly like the presidency for which Obama supporters vilified Bill Clinton.

Obama ran in the primaries as a firebrand; he generated a rich progressive aura, more so than Hillary Clinton next to whom he is more conservative on domestic issues. His general campaign has been absolutely faultless, and equally unexciting. As The First Black Major Party Candidate, maybe he had no choice. However, for the longer term, at this critical American juncture, it's not enough.

Which Obama will take office? The primary Obama with an unmistakably progressive mien, presenting as one unafraid to fundamentally shift the nation's course... or the calculatedly establishment figure of the general election?

Now that the second debate has passed, the landscape has not changed. McCain has soiled his pants and the fat lady's doing scales. One of the questions of the moment becomes, "Will Obama rise to the challenge and steer this country on a course where health care is, in fact a right; where the rich do not rule the rest; where dollars do not equal voices; where wars are neither invisible nor irrelevant to those of us not wearing uniforms? Or will he just be The First Black President?"