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Sherwood Ross: Obama Perceived As One Cool Dude

Obama Perceived As One Cool Dude

By Sherwood Ross

Face it: Barack Obama is one cool dude --- in the tradition of charismatic Democrats John Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

His electrifying oratory recalls that of Illinois presidential aspirant Governor Adlai Stevenson, twice defeated for the White House by Dwight Eisenhower. Obama is moving packed crowds to rapture as he sweeps primaries in state after state.

Of Republican national figures in recent times, only Presidents Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan enjoyed the wide appeal among independents that Obama is said to display. And uncounted Republicans, disgusted by President Bush's profligate deficit spending and his snooping, could become "Obama Democrats."

Young voters see Obama as one cool dude, an attractive politician with charisma and star power. Obama's energy mirrors their energy. He literally sprints to the podium. They may not know it, but Obama's platform is not that far removed from Eisenhower's "Peace and Prosperity" mantra. They like what they hear about reinvigorating the Peace Corps, and making college affordable.

Ike's popularity rested on his role as the general that liberated Europe in World War Two. President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Civil Rights Act passage got a boost from the tsunami created by the assassination of President Kennedy. Obama's power derives from a public revulsion over the Iraq invasion, which he opposed.

Americans knew that Eisenhower had speech writers, and that his delivery often was halting, but they didn't care. The public saw him as a decent, affable, likeable guy. Few knew Ike expressed regret over President Truman's atom bombing of Japan but he had. Ike had compassion. And he kept America out of war.

Unlike most politicians, Obama projects himself as a candidate that doesn't need speechwriters or a printed manuscript. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and lectured on constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He comes over as smart, very smart.

Example: Obama makes shrewd use of his media opportunities. Talking to his supporters after his Super Tuesday victories, Obama took a moment to express his sorrow over the tornadoes that had ravaged the mid-South and pointedly expressed hope the Federal government would act quickly to help the victims. This oblique reference to President Bush's failure to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina sent a message to Louisiana voters that likely bettered his chances to defeat Senator Clinton there in the primary a few days later.

The more voters' see of Obama, the better they like him. He keeps winning primaries by ever larger numbers. Now about tied with Senator Clinton for delegate votes, he appears definitely electable.

And Obama's campaign coffers are being filled by the Little Shots, not the Big Shots, and there are lots more of them. The Little Shots respond to Obama's campaign for a level playing field for organized labor, raising the minimum wage, and ending tax breaks for corporations that move jobs overseas. Obama recalls FDR's compassion for "the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

The presumptive Republican standard-bearer Senator John McCain of Arizona will not be easy to defeat. He is running a restrained, intelligent campaign and speaks well of his opponents. He is no cheap mud-slinger. He is a war hero that has been around for a long time and many voters believe he has paid his dues and earned his shot at the White House.

McCain, though, talks about staying in Iraq for a hundred years if that's what it takes to "win." He might as well make Iraq the 51st state. The Bush-Cheney war has no winners and a million Iraqi losers. And it has needlessly sacrificed the lives of 4,000 Americans and wounded tens of thousands more that are filling our VA hospitals. The bottom line is that a ruined Iraq is worse off than ever. No wonder Obama says he welcomes a foreign policy debate with McCain.

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(Sherwood Ross writes for newspapers and magazines. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)

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