>REACT: Obama is in.

>Illinois Senator Barak Obama has made it official. He is a candidate for President of the United States. If he runs the course, he will be the first half African-American nominee of a major party, and the first almost black Commander-in-Chief.

You have to excuse me if I am not buying into the silly notion that he is a black, or African- American, public official. He is half white and totally raised in a privileged white environment. Bill Clinton was called the “first black president” because his life experience was similar to the black experience in American. If a guy as white as Clinton can be hailed as black by upbringing, then Obama is as white as John Kerry — the Irish Catholic senator who, in the throws of a presidential campaign, discovered he was also Jewish.

(ASIDE: In Chicago, a lot of Eastern Europeans, whose names have no syllables, are changing to ballot-friendly Irish names to get elected to judicial offices. I think there is a trend here. This “pick a nationality” could be very useful in breaking down ethnic prejudices. But, back to Barak).

Taking things slowly is always good advice. So a half black candidate is probably a better idea — obviously more acceptable to the democrat voters who did not put much wind in the sails of the presidential campaigns of blacker candidates, such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Shirley Chisholm.

So, why is Obama so popular?

First I would contend that despite the pander of politicians and the prodding of the press, America is not nearly as racially prejudice as we are led to believe. Had he responded favorably, it is very possible former Secretary of State Colin Powell would have secured the Republican nomination in 1988 — and, based on apparent public popularity, would have had a real shot at the presidency. The GOP blew that opportunity.

Unlike Powell, Obama comes to his popularity without the substantial resume. In fact, any white guy with his record would be out of the running. In my judgment, Obama is such a hot candidate because (1) he is not really black — and certainly not scary to whites, (2) he has a terrrrrrrific smile (I think this is a serious positive. Think Dwight Eisenhower, for those whose thinking goes back that far), and (3) he is arguably the best communicator in America today (Bingo! There it is.).

On this latter point, I am speaking style, not substance. He is at the opposite end of the oratorical continuum from George Bush — who was not spared the family mutated gene for oral ineffectiveness. In my life time, only two presidents have had that evangelical quality of inspiring, motivating and moving an audence by oratory skill. They are John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In neither case was content critical. Their greatest quotes were those that inspired, not informed.

This is the reason why Obama is so powerful. He inspires. He is easy on the ears. Devoid of substance, there is little with which to disagree in his well offered platitudes. Instead of troop levels, welfare costs or failing education, Obama can talk of hope and healing. He challenges us to rise to our sense of national greatness (a la Kennedy and Reagan) instead of dragging us through explanations and excuses for our social malaise (a la Carter, Clinton and Bush).

As a person who has careered in the world of word-smithery — as speech writer, coach, and, occasionally, the person at the podium — I marvel at the Obama’s deliver. His talent goes beyond speechifying. In response to questions, he is a master of response. It is difficult to find any potential improvement in his choice of words, their assemblage and their nuances. He is as flawless as humanly possible.

He is not Chauncy Gardner, the movie character who, without any substantive knowledge became an adviser to world leaders on the basis of misunderstood homilies and botanical platitudes. Obama will face questions of substance, but is disarming manner will smooth the abrasive edge of even the most divisive issue.

I do not suggest that the style-over-substance school of public speaking is to be decried. No! No! No! I think it is great asset to leadership — especially at the presidential level. Those who prefer policy wonks as presidents forget that the office does not lend itself to micro managers, like Nixon and Carter. Presidents, such as Reagan, who successfully sell great visions, and leave implementation to component and philosophically loyal appointees, are the great presidents.

It is my feeling that despite his too-far-left leaning (which will be pushed right by the demands of a campaign and the constraints of the office, should he get there), Obama has the potential of being a great president. He may get derailed by the competitors in his own party, or defeated in the general election, but should he make it to the Oval Office, I am predicting one very popular president.

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