A Few Obama Thank-Yous
By Colbert I. King
Saturday, November 8, 2008; Page A17
In his Tuesday night acceptance speech, President-elect Barack Obama appropriately offered "thank-yous" to his family, campaign aides and voters who supported the Democratic ticket.
Now he may be dashing off thank-you notes to others who helped bring about his electoral college landslide. Here's hoping his list includes:
· Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. The allegiance of Obama's Democratic party allies should be measured against the standard: "BATK" (Before or After Tim Kaine.) Kaine endorsed Obama in February 2007, far in advance of most Congressional Black Caucus members and statewide elected officials outside of Illinois.
· Bill and Hillary Clinton. Obama could not have asked more of the Clintons. Despite her bitter defeat in the race for the party's presidential nomination, they went all-out for Obama, urging disappointed supporters to get behind the Democratic ticket. The Clintons should be thanked for that. But there's another reason to thank them.
Obama wouldn't be set to become the nation's 44th president were it not for the toughening-up he got from the Clintons in the primaries. Everything was thrown at Obama: his inexperience and questionable associations, his so-called oratorical skills vs. a lack of substance, his supposed unreadiness to become commander in chief -- charges that were also used by John McCain in the general election race.
By the time Obama locked horns with the GOP attack machine, he was battle-tested. For that, he owes the Clintons a special thank-you.
· The Commission on Presidential Debates. The debate formats -- one devoted exclusively to foreign policy and another to domestic policy, and a third using a town-hall-meeting style -- gave Obama the opportunity to demonstrate his command of the issues and to show that he could coolly and ably defend his positions in a face-off with the more senior McCain. The debates elevated Obama's presidential stature -- and took McCain down a peg or two.
· The Rev. Jeremiah Alvesta Wright. In Liberty Baptist church, my childhood place of worship, I heard it preached: "Sometimes a stumbling block can be a steppingstone in disguise."
Wright, Obama's former pastor, may have fulfilled that wise saying. Without Wright's fiery and controversial sermons, short segments of which were repeatedly aired in the media, Obama would not have delivered his "A More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia.
The whole affair allowed Obama to address head-on the elephant in the room -- race. Obama did it with candor and a sensitivity that reflected an insightful understanding of this American dilemma. It was a rare and reassuring performance by a presidential hopeful.
· The U.S. Secret Service. The number of threats against Obama is kept confidential, but I'm reliably told it is huge. It's no secret that there are people who would harm him if they could. That Obama is on his way to the White House is a tribute to the men and women who, 24-7, put their lives and limbs between him and harm. They can't be thanked enough.
· Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. As a motivational strategy, coaches often post in locker rooms any nasty pre-game comments made by opposing players. O'Reilly and Hannity gave to Obama supporters plenty of fighting words.
Night after night, Hannity and O'Reilly, courtesy of their prime-time cable broadcasts, found new ways to get the juices of the Obama faithful flowing. The Fox channel was the bulletin board that conveyed the ugly remarks that motivated Obama's supporters to hand out more literature, work the phones, canvass door to door and vote by the millions.
· Katie Couric. A thank-you note from Obama might embarrass the CBS News anchor, since her interviews with GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin was strictly a journalistic pursuit and not an effort to boost the Democratic presidential ticket.
The Couric-Palin interviews, though hardly the equivalent of the Wall Street meltdown, were excruciating to watch. They sent McCain's claim to good judgment up in flames.
Perhaps a thank-you note to Couric isn't in order. But a knowing smile the next time Obama sees her might do the trick.
· Soul-searching Republicans. They are trying to figure out what went wrong. The emerging consensus: Republican candidates strayed from their core principles of fiscal conservatism and small government. Cramped thinking of that sort ensures the Republican party's minority status.
Roll the tape for a larger picture of the problem -- and a glimpse of what lies ahead: Scan the faces of delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as the McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden campaign crowds. Examine the demographic results in Tuesday's election.
Now consider the U.S. Census Bureau's population projections.
If the GOP does not become more inclusive and open to new ideas, it could take on the image (not the ideology) of F.W. De Klerk's now disbanded National Party of South Africa.
If that happens, Obama can thank narrow-minded Republican strategists.
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