The first caucus of the 2008 presidential campaign is today and the field of candidates—both Democrats and Republicans—have their hands filled with major issues: (universal) healthcare, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, immigration, torture, terror, a recalcitrant administration, the destruction of tapes (reminiscent of Watergate) and Iraq.
In addition to the obvious high-ticket items mentioned above, there are some “non-issue” issues that are appearing on the horizon including Oprah Winfrey’s support for Senator Barack Obama. Almost every candidate has at least one celebrity in his/her corner, however, the Obama/Oprah connection is causing a stir and some (Oprah) fans are complaining. Senator Hillary Clinton has the endorsement of Magic Johnson; former Senator John Edwards has Danny Glover; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris, yet the celebrity endorsement issue is not being raised relative to any other candidate. And it is not really an issue at all.
The endorsement of products, issues and candidates is as American as baseball, apple-pie and hot-dogs. Media experts and campaign managers have always vied for the most well known personalities to sell their products or carry their candidates’ messages to the public. The only difference here is that Oprah is at the top of “her game,” for she has the potential to woo the millions of viewers around the country who watch her show daily, go to see the movies she produces and buy the books that she endorses on her television show.
After the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last week, the tone of the campaign has been altered somewhat because the next president of the United States will have to deal with Pakistan. The future of that country is directly linked to America’s foreign policy, and how it is handled will be determined by the new president’s mettle. Many observers have claimed that Obama, as a newcomer in Washington, does not have the experience to handle such “explosive” foreign policy issues. But the Senator has stated, “People want judgment, and they hope that experience is often a good proxy .... Experience can actually be an impediment to good judgment.” Obama is the only candidate that, in the beginning, did not endorse or support the disastrous Invasion of Iraq. He saw it, at the inception, for what it was—an ill-fated, disastrous foreign policy undertaking. Notwithstanding, it was an administration, with an array of “experienced” foreign policy experts that got the country into the mess that it’s in at present. And Obama, as president, will be the one who can steer the country on the right path, not only because of his experience as the candidate with a different kind of message, but also as the candidate who has demonstrated good judgment in the past.
Campaigning for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world is tantamount to being a soldier on the battlefield. It is like being in a war zone. In “The Great Debaters,” Denzel Washington said, “Words are your weapons.” Obama came to national prominence through his “words’ (address) during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His ability to reach the public with a populous message that includes all levels of society is unlike the other candidates and a breath of fresh air. The “mass-roots,” as his campaign manager skillfully puts it, can readily grasp the message when Obama says: “I am running for president because I want you to be heard. Americans don’t feel as if anybody is listening to them; they don’t feel as if Washington is responsible to the concerns of the American people.”
It is also important to note that Obama has a quality that no other candidate possesses. Even though race has not been a factor in the campaign, the fact that Obama is Black is obvious, but not irrelevant. To have someone as president, who can truly identify, from a gut level, with the sensitivity of both Black and White, is an opportunity the candidacy of Obama offers the country, and one that the country should not miss. And even though author Toni Morrison has referred to former President Bill Clinton as the first Black president, with a President Barack Obama, America will have “the real thing.”
Now that the first rounds of voting are here, the people of Iowa will size up the candidates, render their decisions and serve as a gauge for the rest of the nation. The weather temperature is cold but the campaigning is hot with fervor and excitement. According to those traveling with the candidates, the weather has not dulled their campaigning spirits, as they have worked full time every day and sometimes all day.