Sunday, December 02, 2007

Obama, McCain Gaining Respect As Candidates

It's not too often that newspaper columnists put it on the line as clearly as three of the most prominent have in the last week -- that Sens. Barack Obama on the Democratic side, and John McCain on the Republican are fine candidates who deserve the most serious consideration for their parties' presidential nominations, based on their intelligence, their appeal and their strength of character.

As the first caucuses and primary elections approach -- now little more than a month away -- certain candidacies seem to be fading, mired in one kind of trouble or another. And amazingly the ones who seem to be fading the most include the two perceived in various reports over past months as front runners -- Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Clinton has seemed indecisive and reminds one of a team playing it too safe, as it clings to its possibly vanishing lead. Giuliani seems too strident by far. His attack on former Gov. Mitt Romney in the Republican debate last week was Nixonian. The other leading candidate in the early states, Romney, has been caught in too many changes of positions on key issues for his own good.

In these circumstances, look what has been happening in recent days:

--Washington Post columnist and former chief political reporter David Broder has endorsed McCain and former Gov. Mike Huckabee as the best possible presidential and vice presidential nominees for the Republican party. He bases this on their admirable character and willingness to be frank on such issues as the war and immigration.

--New York Times columnist Frank Rich this morning is high on Obama as a Democratic candidate who has more to offer than Clinton. He argues that Obama would actually be harder for the Republicans to defeat than Clinton, mentions that Obama doesn't seem to evoke the hatred and disdain among conservatives that Clinton does, and contends that Obama's unwillingness to engage in trying to smear his opponents is a plus, not a minus. As far as ultimate prospects in the election, Rich concludes, "Should Mr. Obama upend the Beltway story line by taking Iowa, the Republicans will have every reason to be as fearful (of him) as the Clinton camp is now."

--New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, notes that Obama made the cover of Time magazine this week, won plaudits from writer Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic Monthly as a man who could, as President, present a better image of America, and is being greeted even in the halls of the New York Times by its jaded employees as an inspirational figure.

"Except for panicked Clintonistas, everyone seems eager to see if the young pol can live up to his potential," Dowd writes in today's editorial pages. And, she says, "Many voters with great expectations are hovering." Obama, she says, may not be a perfect campaigner, but, "Despite his uneven effots and distaste for the claws of competition, they can see he is a golden child, one who moves, speaks, smiles and thinks with amazing grace."

The highly influential talk show hostess, Oprah Winfrey, who has endorsed Obama, will make joint appearances with him this week in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Manchester, N.H., and Columbia, S.C., all early voting states, and these appearances are sure to command unusual attention. They have already been the subject of a New York Times story that this endorsement means more than others. Winfrey is Obama's answer to the ridiculous contention that he is "too white" to win most black votes, and she, like Obama, is respected by both whites and blacks.

The Des Moines Register Poll this morning shows Obama leading in the Iowa race, with 28% to Clinton's 25% and Edwards' 23%.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side in Iowa, the poll showed Huckabee has now jumped into a considerable lead over Romney, 29% to 24%. There, McCain, who has pretty much stopped campaigning in Iowa, is at only 7%.

But in New Hampshire, McCain has been moving up in the polls and today he won the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader. The very conservative newspaper had not been a proponent of McCain in the past.

These, indeed, are exciting times in the developing 2008 presidential race. Men of character seem to be coming to the fore, and the wishy washy or strident candidates seem to be falling back. America can only benefit if those trends continue.

--

Bill Dwyre, the retired sports editor and now sports columnist at the L.A. Times, made a powerful argument in a column yesterday for a compromise at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with USC being given more control under a long term lease, but the Coliseum Commission maintaining certain responsibilities.

However, Dwyre, much as I respect him, did not sit in on 20 years of Coliseum Commission meetings as I did. My experience leads me to have great doubts whether this collection of bureaucrats from three levels of government should be entrusted to any degree, either to shepherd the Coliseum forward, or at least to stop filibustering an agreement with USC. Just two of the present Commission members, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, are such numb skulls that they alone could screw things up.

Perhaps Parks and Yaroslavsky ought to go on sick leave, allowing the rest of the commissioners to give USC everything it wants.

Dwyre is a reasonable, rational man. Here, he should realize however, he is dealing with a den of thieves, and that what they threaten to steal is Los Angeles' athletic future.

But, maybe, with Parks and Yaroslavsky at the helm, the Coliseum will get UCLA to return to the Coliseum. USC could play in Anaheim Stadium, and the Rose Bowl could host Pomona College or Occidental.

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