Monday, October 23, 2006

Obamalamadingdong (The Hidden Herbert)

Not to be left out of the fun, the NYTimes' Bob Herbert joins fellow columnists Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, and David Brooks in tackling the theme of the week -- Barack Obama -- in his Monday column The Obama Bandwagon (fully available to Times Select subscribers):
It’s a measure of how starved the country is for a sensible, appealing, intelligent, trustworthy leader that a man who until just a couple of years ago was an obscure state senator in Illinois is now suddenly, in the view of an awful lot of voters, the person we should install in the White House.

At the Kennedy Library forum on Friday night, Mr. Obama declined to rule out a run for the White House in 2008. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” yesterday, he made it clear that he was considering such a run.

With all due respect to Senator Obama, this is disturbing. He may be capable of being a great president. Someday. But one quick look around at the state of the nation and the world tells us that we need to be more careful than we have been in selecting our leaders. There shouldn’t be anything precipitous about the way we pick our presidents.


The giddiness surrounding the Obama phenomenon seems to be an old-fashioned mixture of fun, excitement and a great deal of hope. His smile is electric, and when he laughs people tend to laugh with him. He’s the kind of politician who makes people feel good.

But the giddiness is crying out for a reality check. There’s a reason why so many Republicans are saying nice things about Mr. Obama, and urging him to run. They would like nothing more than for the Democrats to nominate a candidate in 2008 who has a very slender résumé, very little experience in national politics, hardly any in foreign policy — and who also happens to be black.

The Republicans may be in deep trouble, but they believe they could pretty easily put together a ticket that would chew up Barack Obama in 2008.

My feeling is that Senator Obama may well be the real deal. If I were advising him, I would tell him not to move too fast. With a few more years in the Senate, possibly with a powerful committee chairmanship if the Democrats take control, he could build a formidable record and develop the kind of toughness and savvy that are essential in the ugly and brutal combat of a presidential campaign.

After the interview at the Kennedy Library, hundreds of people lined up to have copies of Mr. Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope,” autographed. He signed as many as he could. Then he shook hands with everyone who remained and assured them that he would have their books delivered to his hotel, where he would sign them later that night.

He’s 45. There’s no hurry. He should take all the time he needs.

I don't know if we have much time. At this point, I and Mrs. F are big fans of Senator Obama's possible presidential bid. At the very least, it would make for a very interesting primary season and shake things up from the preliminary crowning of Hilary. Chris Cillizza at the WaPo's The Fix blog has more:
Should Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both enter the race, it would likely turn the nominating contest into a two-person affair. Kerry, Bayh and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) would all still likely run, but it's hard to imagine any of them gaining much traction in a primary battle between two such high-profile figures .

Obama would quickly win over the liberal left -- especially those most strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. As an African American, Obama would also complicate Clinton's strength in the black community, a major constituency in the primaries. Clinton would be forced to run to Obama's ideological right, casting herself as a bridge-builder a la Bill Clinton in 1992.

Until Obama decides on his political future, Clinton remains a strong favorite in the current field. If the Illinois senator runs, however, he would have to be considered a co-frontrunner.


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