Monday, November 24, 2008

Watching Obama

President-elect Barack Obama is announcing his economic team, and taking questions, as I write. He is doing his very best to maintain the fiction that there is only one President of the United States at one time, and that he is not it.

It is difficult not to see the night-and-day difference in this appearance and those in similar situations by many past and current holders of the office. It's easy to still be wowed by the man; he will be handled with kid gloves for a while, especially until he is actually president in fact. When Keith Olbermann and especially Chris Matthews lose their youthful crushes on Obama then we'll see the sparks that are necessary to keep everyone honest and working hard.

But, watching Obama's first press conference as whatever he is, I had a thought: As well as he worked the room to get elected, and to achieve all the pre-conditional things that positioned him to vie for that office, Obama has been the recipent of some incredibly good luck.

When he was running in 2004 for the Senate seat that put him in the (mostly) gentleman's presidential prep school his opponent, Jack Ryan, was forced to drop out race over a sex scandal. They were vying for a seat being vacated by a Republican, and the state had been tending Democratic. It could very well have been the case that Obama would have won the seat in any event in time to seek the presidency 304 or 734 or 768 days later. But Ryan's ignominious departure pretty much sealed the deal.

And then, there was the Republican White House office holder. He was there, watching his popularity steadily deteriorate and with it the chances of his party, because of a contested 2000 election and a squandered 2004 election, either of which could have been won by the Democratic nominee (with a little luck).

With a Democrat in the White House Obama would have remained an intriquing question mark for years to come. At 47, he is a kid by political standards and his day may yet have come.

But anything can happen. This might have been his only moment. And how that moment materialized is a bit amazing.

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