Finally triumphant but battle-scared, it's hard to believe that Obama's real race is only now beginning. Hillary and Rev. Wright certainly stripped him of all that shiny Teflon that armored him through the first half of the nomination battle, but in the long run they both did him a great favor. No one can forever remain on a pedestal and now that he has been humanized he can make mistakes without breaking a million hearts.
And with John McCain now in his sights the AIPAC speech is the perfect opportunity for Obama to lay out a compelling, transformative roadmap for the future of American foreign policy. He's spoken with AIPAC before and his speech back in March of last year hit all the right notes. He didn't shy away from the centerpiece of his difference with McCain and Bush -- tough-minded, direct engagement with Iran instead of childishly and self-defeatingly giving them the silent treatment.
What I hope he delivers tomorrow however is something more. I hope he builds on what he did when addressing Cuban-Americans last month, straight talk instead of talking points to another group that at least initially eyed him with considerable skepticism.
What he did not articulate in that last AIPAC speech, however, is that the security of our nation and the security of Israel are intimately intertwined. The Bush administration says it's a friend of Israel but it's seven-year neglect of the Palestinian question on the one hand and its bumbling into Iraq on the other has strengthened our enemies and Israel's more than any other Western government ever. In effect Bush has put the American military in the service of Greater Iran and McCain insists on staying that disastrous course.
I'd also like to see Obama use the opportunity to talk about more than just Israel, but about how he sees America's role in the world stage. The master of soaring rhetoric, he has a golden opportunity to put McCain on notice that the old, short-sighted politics of fear and arrogance die with this outgoing administration.
Everyone rooting for an Obama presidency is hoping to turn back the clock to a time when America was admired instead of despised around the globe. I'll be listening tomorrow to see if he tells us how he plans on getting us back there.
Trey Ellis is the author of "Bedtime Stories: Adventures in the Land of Single-Fatherhood"
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