Feature

Obama

The Democrats' next presidential nominee?

'œI don't want to be coy,' Barack Obama confided last weekend on Meet the Press. 'œGiven the responses I have been given the last several months, I have thought about the possibility.' With those words, said Helen Kennedy in the New York Daily News, the junior senator from Illinois signaled he might run for president in 2008—and sent the hopes of Democrats soaring. Obama first caught the public's eye with his eloquent keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Now, his new book, The Audacity of Hope, has made him 'œa genuine political phenomenon,' with pundits lining up to praise him, and admirers around the nation issuing 300 invitations a week for him to speak. It's not just that he's got sterling credentials: Columbia undergrad, editor of the Harvard Law Review, seven years as an Illinois state senator. It's also that as the son of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother, he has a compelling life story, and centrist political views that are hard to label or demonize. Toss in his youth, telegenic face, and silver tongue, and you've got a bonafide star, said Richard Wolf in USA Today. In fact, Obama is probably the only Democrat who could pose a formidable challenge to front-runner Hillary Clinton.

It's easy to see why Democrats see him as 'œa panacea for all their ills,' said Frank Rich in The New York Times. Obama is a 'œone-man Benetton ad who can be all things to all people.' He's black, but he's also white. He's a man of faith who also believes in evolution. A gifted speaker with genuine charisma, 'œhe has both gravitas and unpretentious humor.' Essentially, he's Bill Clinton without the baggage. Best of all, said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, he's clear about the most important issue of the day—Iraq. Obama was one of the few Democratic senators who opposed the invasion from the start. What a refreshing change for the Democrats to field a presidential candidate who would not have to say he was 'œfooled' into supporting an ill-conceived war.

Democrats, please take 'œa deep breath,' said Ezra Klein in the Los Angeles Times. For all his talent and charm, Obama is really just 'œan attractive cipher.' He's got little experience, having been a U.S. senator for less than two years. In his brief time on the national stage, 'œhe has refused to expend his political or personal capital on a single controversial issue.' In place of actual policies, said Seth Gitell in The New York Sun, he prefers to speak in vague, lofty platitudes, laced with such expressions as 'œthe politics of hope,' 'œtake back America,' and other sentiments you could get 'œfrom the back of a Starbucks coffee cup.'

Clarence Page

Chicago Tribune

David Brooks

The New York Times

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