February 4th, 2008
05:10 PM ET

Does race matter?


The LA Times’ endorsement of Barack Obama does not come as a surprise. Obama’s meteoric rise in California’s more progressive suburbs – and among Hollywood’s more progressive celebrities – was always a given. For many in the Golden State, particularly younger voters, Obama is this year’s Howard Dean, except with an actual shot at the nomination.

But what is surprising is the rationale my hometown paper gives for ultimately choosing Obama over Hillary:

“No public relations campaign could do more than Obama's mere presence in the White House to defuse anti-American passion around the world,” the editors of the Times write.

I’ve already written about the lunacy of this argument in the Washington Post noting that the people of the Muslim world could not give a damn about the color of the American President’s skin (or, for that matter, the President’s gender). They care only about one thing: what the next President will do to fix the mess George W. Bush has put us in. In this regard, the Times admits there is little that separates Obama from Clinton save “a sense of aspiration.”

I agree with the Times that Obama is a wonderful orator. I get goose bumps when I hear him talk about coming together as one country to fix Washington.

Except that it’s not Washington’s fault the economy is in shambles. It’s the Republicans' fault. It’s not Washington’s fault that Iraq is ablaze and Afghanistan is lost. It’s the Republicans' fault. So maybe a little partisanship is not such a bad thing right now.
Maybe a little of what the Times calls “withering political fire” would actually be good for the country. I know I wouldn’t mind giving the Republicans a taste of their own medicine.

But even so, if we are electing a President based on his or her bipartisanship, it’s hard to think of a candidate who has done more work across the aisle than Clinton. Yet, that’s not what the Times is talking about. In the end, it’s not so much Obama’s abilities that matter, but his life story.

Borrowing Clinton’s own sound bite, the Times argues that, “Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility.”

The Times prefers the poem. In any other election year I would agree. But maybe a little prose – something boring but competent – is exactly what we need right now.

-Reza Aslan, 360° Contributor

Filed under: Raw Politics • Reza Aslan
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