Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Barack Obama

Two images from the 1990s came to mind .

One is of a fresh-faced politician, with a smart (in both senses of the word) and assertive wife. They were receiving the rapturous applause of a Blackpool audience who sensed - rightly - that they were on the brink of a change in their party's fortunes.

The other is of German writer/director Edgar Reitz's recreation of the Munich of thirty-five years earlier, in his TV series, "Heimat 2". In the only episode which reached the heights of the first series, the effect of the assassination of a young US president on the citizens of Munich, especially a group of friends and fellow-students, is poignantly displayed.

John F Kennedy had become not only an inspiration for his own people, but for a whole generation round the world. He, too, had a wife who had a style which broke with tradition. The Blairs - and we tend to forget this in the wake of the Iraq invasion - became pin-ups for socialists and social democrats in Europe and beyond.

Barring an incredible number of super-delegates switching their votes, Barack Obama will become the Democrat candidate for the US presidency, and his brilliant, attractive, wife Michelle the potential first lady.

There is no doubt that, if the free world had a choice, this charismatic couple would enter the White House next January, just as the Kennedys had nearly fifty years earlier.

However, Americans have a habit of resenting advice from outside the Union. The Republican contender John McCain has two great advantages, too. He has campaign money in hand, while the two Democrats have had to spend right up to the wire (and provided much negative campaign material on each other, gratis). He also has experience on his side, including experience of the real world outside the United States.

Obama has had the sense to sign up some star advisers, though, and it seems that he still has the power to attract campaign contributions. Moreover, the downside of great experience is the time spent acquiring it; the Democrats have made little secret of their intention to stress McCain's age (he is the oldest man ever to be nominated for the presidency).

There may be one more handicap for McCain in the form of a third candidate who, with a conservative platform, may take more Republican than Democrat votes.

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