Reconsidering Obama

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THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 25, 2006

Reconsidering Obama

Maybe you read my Spine, "Not Just Anyone," posted on September 22. If you haven't, here it is. It was occasioned by John McWhorter's piece in The New York Sun about Barack Obama. McWhorter's point was that Obama was high on the list of Democratic favorites for president because was an African American. I thought that is probably the case and said so.

But, on reflection, it occurs to me that many candidates for president or for a party's nomination for president are popular for what are certainly--and strictly speaking--extraneous reasons. As Cass Sunstein rightly points out, Obama is a very talented person and could not have gotten as far as he has in the presidential stakes without that talent.

There are others to whom this also applies. But would Hillary be
where she is were she not a woman? Or the wife of a popular and deeply flawed president? And as Michael Kazin also rightly points out, Obama is an idiosyncratic African American, although Mike doesn't use the word "idiosyncratic."

In any case, he is not a four-flusher and hustler like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who also ran for president. But he is more than just not like these men. He is a formidable candidate because he is a formidable person. More than Mark Warner or Tom Vilsack. And why shouldn't we at last have a black president? Given America's history, that's an honorable ambition for a party and for a country.

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