The rise and rise of Barack Obama

“Perhaps no other politician in America is generating as much buzz as the Democrat senator from Illinois. News articles and magazines are full of speculation that Obama will run for the White House in 2008.”


“Cutting through the hype, the insider wisdom says it is still too soon for Obama. His national career is just two years old and he is too fresh-faced for a tilt at the biggest prize in global politics. Still, his career stretches ahead of him and he will run for the White House at some stage. Obama in 2008? Probably not. But Obama in 2012, 2016 or 2020? A certainty.”

These are extracts from a full-page profile in today’s “Observer” newspaper of the American politician Barack Obama.
Two years ago, I wrote series of blog postings on the Senate race in Illinois and highlighted the appealing features of Obama. Now everyone is talking about him for US president. It seems incredible that he should run so soon after arriving in Washington, but there is a very good reason for him to run in 2008. Should there be a sitting Democrat president in 2012, Obama would not want to run against that person, so he would not be able to run until 2016. By then his time may have come and gone.
My good friend Elaine Disch, who lives just outside Chicago and first drew my attention to Obama, sent me an interesting article from the “Chicago Tribune”. which makes a case for running in 2008

Why Obama should run for president
By Newton N. Minow
October 26, 2006
After losing the election for president for the second time in 1956, Adlai E.
Stevenson gave the prestigious Gridiron speech in Washington. As a young
assistant and Stevenson law partner at the time, I was thrilled to be invited to
accompany him on the trip. The evening before the speech, we were at a small
Washington dinner party that included Sen. Jack Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, as
At the time, I called Sen. Kennedy “Jack.” He thanked me for helping him try to
get the Democratic vice presidential nomination that summer. I said, “Jack, if
you are still interested, I think you can be nominated for vice president in
1960.” He looked at me with his piercing eyes and replied, “Vice president?
Newt, I’m going to run for president!” I was stunned, and said, “Are you nuts?
You are only 39 years old.” He said, “If I ever have a chance, it is next time.”
And, of course, he was right.
Fifty years have gone by since that dinner-party conversation. Now we have
another young man thinking about running for president. Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Ill.) is two years older than Kennedy was when he became president at age 43.
Yet many people wonder whether Obama is ready to assume the responsibilities of
the presidency. I believe he is ready, and here’s why.
Our country got off to a bad start in the new century. Sept. 11, 2001, the Iraq
war, Iran and North Korea working on nuclear bombs, mammoth budget deficits,
failure to address problems with Social Security, health care and
immigration–all these issues have engulfed our country. We are disgusted by
excessive partisanship and ethical lapses in both parties.
We need a calm, reflective president who does not think the other party is
driven by bad motives. His new book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on
Reclaiming the American Dream,” is a thoughtful, careful analysis of what needs
to be done to preserve our freedoms in a time of terror. For those who question
whether he has enough experience to have good judgment, I remind them that it
was Obama who had the wisdom and courage back in 2003 to warn, “Do not invade
Iraq.” His service in the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate earned the respect
of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He brings people together to find
consensus and to find solutions to our problems. He is a different kind of
political leader. He is a peacemaker.
Second, as David Brooks pointed out in his column in The New York Times last
week, Obama is not an orthodox liberal. Obama is of a new generation, tired of
the arguments about big versus small government. Instead, he wants smart
government. He looks for sensible solutions either through governmental action
or marketplace approaches, whichever is appropriate for the circumstances. He is
the opposite of an ideologue and has no interest in continuing the current
impasse between liberals and conservatives.
Third, his unique background can heal racial and ethnic tensions that persist in
our pluralistic society. The reason Americans of all opinions liked his famous
2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention was that he transcended the
usual problems of race and gender and ethnicity and talked about “one America,”
not blue or red states, but a vision of America’s future faithful to our ideals
and our Constitution.
Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to have known the senator and his wife,
Michelle, for more than 15 years. Michelle and Barack worked in our law firm in
the 1980s. (Indeed, that is where they met!) My wife, Jo, and I kept in close
touch with the Obama family for years. To those who wonder about whether he is
ready to be president, we can testify that Barack and Michelle are true
grown-ups. And that is exactly what we need in the White House.
Barack, Kennedy said 50 years ago, “If I ever have a chance, it is next time.”
That is good advice for you.
Newton N. Minow, a Chicago lawyer, was chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission from 1961 to 1963.
Copyright (c) 2006, Chicago Tribune