Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

McCain, Obama: The Generation Chasm

After years of Bush's would-be and as-if leadership, American voters are choosing authenticity, albeit with a 24-year age gap and a world of difference in personal history and mindset.

Of all the accusations that could, and likely will, be made against John McCain and Barack Obama, the least plausible will involve calculation and deceit.

Last night's victory speeches laid out the broad outlines of their confrontation.

Turning Obama's central theme against him, McCain said, "My hope for our country resides in my faith in the American character, the character which proudly defends the right to think and do for ourselves, but perceives self-interest in accord with a kinship of ideals, which, when called upon, Americans will defend with their very lives.

"To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude."

Against McCain's message of traditional values, Obama offered a new approach: "This is what change looks like when it happens from the bottom up. And in this election, your voices will be heard.

"Because at a time when so many people are struggling to keep up with soaring costs in a sluggish economy, we know that the status quo in Washington just won't do. Not this time. Not this year. We can't keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expect a different result--because it's a game that ordinary Americans are losing."

This contest of new vs. old promises to feature civility and positive attitude from both candidates, although there will certainly be Rovian low blows from third-party fringes on both sides.

In stepping up to face each other, both candidates in passing repudiated those on their own side who opposed them.

Obama framed the Democratic outcome as a decision "about whether we choose to play the game, or whether we choose to end it...change that polls well, or change we can believe in. It's the past versus the future. And when I'm the Democratic nominee for President, that will be the choice in November."

On his part, McCain gave an oblique "kiss my grits" to the Religious Right by talking about faith in his supporters, the "American character" and "our country" without the obligatory bow to a Higher Power.

With Obama acknowledging McCain as "an American hero," the '08 contest is definitely looking up.

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