Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama's Defining Moment

Tomorrow night's debate in Philadelphia could be the turning point. If he is the masterful politician he seems to be, Barack Obama will seize the moment to rise above the squabbling and bickering to define himself for American voters.

Just as he broadened the Jeremiah Wright brouhaha into a statement about race in America in that same hall, Obama can use his "small town" misstep to address directly the doubts that exist and are being exacerbated about him and re-frame the issue of his trustworthiness.

In response, he can acknowledge understandable skepticism on the part of Americans who were told eight years ago that George W. Bush was a compassionate conservative who would not embark on nation-building, only to get a president with no empathy for their needs, a radical agenda to enrich the richest and a reckless foreign policy that would destroy another nation and squander our blood, treasure and reputation in the world trying to put it back together again.

Voters, Obama can point out, thought they were making a safe choice in selecting a familiar name and reassuring promises from a comforting source. Now they are being asked to give their trust to a dark-skinned man with an odd name and exotic roots who, they are being told, is "elitist" and "out of touch" with them.

But which is the greater gamble at this low point of Americans' confidence in their future? More of the same or trusting someone whose judgement has thus far turned out to be sound and whose promise of change is not encumbered with a history of business-as-usual in Washington?

Playing it safe, Obama can truthfully tell Americans, is the biggest gamble of all.

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