Saturday, February 10, 2007

Obama makes it official

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yup, Barack Obama's officially in the race. Let Obamania begin in earnest!

(Yawn.)

Obama has been smeared relentlessly since he announced the formation of an exploratory committee last month -- and then there was the Biden kerfuffle. We have defended him against the efforts of the right-wing smear machine to destroy him, as have many others, but do not doubt that the smearing will continue.

And yet I stand by what I've written before about Obama's candidacy -- here and here: I like him, but he has a lot to prove:

The expectations demand it. That '04 convention speech was stirring, and Obama shows signs of the sort of bully-pulpit qualities the presidency requires, but saying the right things at the right times isn't enough. Nor are hollow soundbites, no matter how quotable, no matter how inspiring. I do not doubt that he is a man of substance and profundity, but the junior senator from Illinois, still so raw, must add solidity to his vision. His lack of experience means the lack of a disturbing track record, of the sort that plagues senators more than governors, but he must prove to be more than an Oprah-oriented talk-show celebrity. It's one thing to talk about race, sex, and religion, quite another actually to do something about America's ills. He is running for commander-in-chief, after all, not therapist-in-chief.

Obama admitted today that there was "a certain presumptuousness -- a certain audacity -- to [his] announcement". Quite true. He delivered his speech on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, where, several scores and some years ago, Lincoln delivered his "house divided" speech. And Obama did not fail to make the connection.

Make no mistake, though. Obama is no Lincoln.

He is an impressive man, and I'm keeping my mind open, even if I prefer other Democratic contenders at the moment, but there's a long way to go before he will have proven himself worthy of the highest office in the land.

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