Friday, August 29, 2008

Time for Bare-Knuckled Eloquence

In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama put aside the poetry, took off the gloves and threw down the gauntlet for John McCain--reminding even those who have been observing him closely that, behind the charisma, is a steely politician determined to win an election.

"If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief," Obama said, "that's a debate I'm ready to have.

"For while Sen. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face. When John McCain said we could just 'muddle through' in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell--but he won't even go to the cave where he lives."

Critics will carp about the lack of well-turned phrases in tonight's address, but the candidate was clearly not looking to replicate Martin Luther King's eloquence of 45 years ago but to turn "I have a dream" into the reality of wide-awake political power.

At every turn, he tied McCain to failed Bush policies, noting that his opponent has "voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change."

To the challenge of putting "meat on the bones" of his calls for change, Obama offered a laundry list of tax proposals and incentives to transfer economic burdens from middle-class families to corporations and upper-income taxpayers that will jump start debate on the issues of the campaign.

He called for finding common ground on divisive issues like abortion, gun control and gay rights rather than using them for political advantage.

The Republican swiftboaters are certain to twist what he had to say into attack ads, but one thing is clear: This time around, they won't have a clear field when they do. Obama may not win the election, but he will not go down without a bare-knuckled fight.

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