March 07, 2008


Hillary Clinton is right about one thing: Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience.

With us.

We've spent 16 years reading, hearing and arguing about HR Clinton and can't honestly expect too many happy surprises to await us.

The public's broad consciousness of Barack Obama, on the other hand, is barely a year old, based largely on spin, rhetoric, heartwarming photography and cuddly fanship. So effective has this theater been that even the cynical may forget that as recently as three years ago even those who knew anything about Obama knew him as a state senator, hardly a common launch pad for the White House.

Consider the closing words in Todd Purdum's profile in Vanity Fair, in which he describes Obama saying good bye to the Illinois state senate in the fall of 2004:

"Afterward, he faced the Springfield press corps for the last time. Someone asked why he had already ruled out running on a national ticket with Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008. His answer was crisp and immediate. 'You know,' Obama replied, 'I am a believer in knowing what you're doing when you apply for a job. And I think that if I were to seriously consider running on a national ticket I would essentially have to start now, before having served a day in the Senate. Now, there are some people who might be comfortable doing that, but I'm not one of those people.'

Concludes Purdam: "But he is one of those people. He is. And wherever he is going, he has been one of them for a long, long time."

What has happened since can only be explained as a triumph of propaganda and political organizing combined with the unusual susceptibility of a frustrated electorate that has been deceived too often.

But step back from the campaign, forget the names of the leading candidates and this is what we face: a nation trapped in a foul war, dismal economy and dangerous environment choosing as a leader an eccentric right-winger of unpredictable behavior and uncertain lifespan or a largely unknown, untested and unchallenged man who has yet to tell us with any precision what he plans to do, and certainly didn't do a good job of it four years ago.

The choice seems lodged somewhere between the careless and the reckless. Both men are where they are because they are mythical symbols of things of which many dream. At a time when America desperately needs reality we refuse to turn off the TV. Time will tally the cost.