An aggressive, re-energized Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President Thursday night with a stirring speech long on specifics, peppered with in-your-face challenges to John McCain and one that delivered on the promise that has drawn so many to enthusiastically support the Senator from Illinois.
In a speech that is, without a doubt, one of the best that I have witnessed in 40 plus years of covering politics as a journalist or working within the system as an operative, Obama issued both a challenge to Republicans to bring it on and sounded a clarion call for real change in America.
Those who wondered if Obama had the aggressiveness and fight to make a run for President aren’t wondering any more. McCain, who supporters said watched the speech, is probably shaking his head and wondering: "Now what do I do?"
Obama not only returned to his theme of the need for fundamental change in how Washington works, he threw down a gauntlet to McCain, saying he would be happy to debate the GOP nominee on who has the best temperament and judgment to be Commander in Chief and who best understands what America needs. His analysis of McCain is simple: The old man of the Republican Party "doesn’t get it."
Obama is right. McCain doesn’t get it. The Republican Party doesn’t get it. What remains to be seen is whether or not the American people get it and will reject the regressive GOP policies of the last eight years and endorse change offered by a black man with a name like Barack Obama.
Conventional political wisdom says the Republican Party should be fighting for its political life. Saddled with an unpopular war, a President with the lowest approval ratings in history and a back-to-the-stone-ages political philosophy, the party of the elephant should be easy pickings in November.
But pre-convention polls show a tight race, one that could go either way. Perhaps it is uneasiness about Obama, a candidate who is still an unknown quantity to many Americans. Perhaps it is the latent racism that still lurks in the soul of America. Perhaps it is fear.
Perhaps, but Obama’s speech Thursday night answered many of the questions that linger about him and his policies. Obama clearly defined the issues of this campaign, one that must focus on the economy, the Iraq war and the mood of depression that has gripped this nation.
His words should stir enthusiastic support not only from Democrats but also from Americans who want their country back from eight years of tyranny of George W. Bush. Obama’s call for a resurgence of national pride goes beyond partisan politics and reminds all of us that we are Americans first.
In his speech, Obama said:
The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America, they have served the United States of America.
So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.
America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.
Obama defined this election as a choice between the failed policies of the past and the promise of the future:
America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of Scripture, hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.