From the moment Barack Obama began contemplating a presidential run, conservatives saw one thing about him they didn't like a bit: his wife. She had a career of her own. The way she kidded her husband about his morning breath suggested that theirs might actually be a marriage of equals. And most of all, she was black. Way, way too black.
But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.
Few controversies of the presidential campaign seem less momentous once they conclude than the traditional “debate over debates.” One campaign pushes for more debates, the other pushes for fewer, and the two perform a ridiculous tango of dudgeon, disappointment, and expectations-gaming. As with so much else in this long, long campaign, the debate over debates has started early this year.
John McCain is pressing Barack Obama to join him for ten town hall-style debates, while the Obama campaign has countered with an offer of five debates, only one of which would be a town hall. But, posturing aside, how much will the debates, and the rest of the campaign, really tell us about the next presidency?
Obama's defining political skill may prove to be his ability to parry attacks and turn them to his advantage. It kept his campaign moving forward and upward when others would have found themselves unable to go on.