David Brooks makes some shrewd points about the Obama candidacy today. Yes: he has had the shine scuffed off him. Yes: his capacity to be a post-partisan unifier would have been easier if he hadn't been forced into some rather classic primary warfare. Yes: he hasn't been as deft as he might have been on the cultural issues. Yes: he isn't the messiah. Yes: a blanket commitment to quit Iraq so quickly may well have to be adjusted in office, depending on events and developments we cannot yet know. And yes, his pivoting off NAFTA has not been pretty.
At the same time, his considerable strengths remain. He is the most persuasive and reasoned liberal on the national stage in a very long time. The inevitable initial swoon was always going to come down to earth at some point, and in some ways, it's better for the bloom to be swiped off the rose now rather than in September. Despite the caricature, many of us who want Obama to be the Democratic nominee are aware he doesn't walk on water, has a bit of an ego, has some iffy friends, and some ugly supporters. If the mountain were smooth, you couldn't climb it.
The great benefit of a McCain-Obama election will be the emergence of two flawed, human, but basically decent men who represent what I think of as the best and most sincere faces of their respective parties.
The chance for a more honest and candid debate about Iraq, terror, healthcare and debt is infinitely higher now than it was six months ago and will be even higher if and when the Clintons give up. Both men have made ugly political compromises in their time. Both have character failings as well as enormous qualities. Both have enormous egos and bad days. They are in short politicians. I, for one, was not expecting saints. But they're among the best we've got, and the emergence of the two of them is a real sign that Americans are engaged again, know we have serious problems and want to tackle them. It will be a tough and fascinating fight. It surely cannot be as depressing and as nasty as the primary season has become among the Dems.
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