Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s wrote about the American tendency to use "crisp, clear and unadorned language" in business dealings, only to turn to "bombast" and "relentless pomposity" when indulging in supposedly-poetic public speaking. But de Tocqueville thought that realism would eventually win out-and so it has in most presidential elections of the past 30 years, even when the campaigns initially were full of air. Obama's brilliant oratory so far has allowed him to escape specifics, but he eventually will have to go beyond the question of who opposed the war in 2003: the real question now is what to do in 2008. An article by Angelina Jolie in The Washington Post late last month, with the surprising headline "A Reason to Stay in Iraq," was worth a thousand bombastic speeches.
Jolie argued that the U.S. should not squander what the troop surge has achieved, an opportunity to make "humanitarian progress" that will be lost if American forces pull out precipitously. Although Cosmogirl.com readers voted Angelina Jolie #3 on their list of desired presidential candidates (behind Oprah and Jon Stewart, ahead of Bono), she apparently is not on McCain's list of possible running mates-but he should run with what she wrote.
If the race is McCain vs. Obama, the older senator will needs to pop the younger's halo of humaneness. One way is to listen to Jill Stanek, the whistle-blowing nurse who saw close-up at an Illinois senate committee hearing Obama's opposition to protecting even babies born alive after failed abortions: "Obama's clinical discourse, his lack of mercy, shocked me." The Chicago Sun-Times ran a cartoon of Obama holding a sign with "LIVE BIRTH ABORTION" on it, God reaching down from heaven to a baby in front of the state senator, and Obama yelling at God, "You keep out of this!"
Is McCain up to criticizing Obama (or Clinton) on abortion? Perhaps not, but GOP honchos should talk with Clarise McFarlen, a 16-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, who-like Obama-is of a mixed racial background. At first excited to hear of Obama's candidacy, Clarise changed her mind when she learned of his position on partial-birth abortion: "My heart just stopped. If you support killing babies, there's no way you can have true compassion."