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Monday, May 14, 2007
(8:41 AM) | Stephen:
Barack Obama

I attended Barack Obama's Kansas City rally on Saturday afternoon - the cheap rally, not the VIP reception, of course.

It was quite the spectacle. Certainly we had one of the most diverse crowds I've been a part of in Kansas City, which still has quite a few problems with racial separation. The line to get in stretched around the corner and at least halfway down the block. I had the good fortune of running into an old friend of mine and was able to cut in. We still were toward the back, though.

Obama is charismatic, no doubt about it. But it's hard to pin down just why he's so compelling. I think the best way to put it is that he sounds and looks like a regular guy for whom the times became so dire, so momentous that he had to do something. The cadence of his speaking shows that he's learned more than theology from the black preachers he's been listening to over the years, but there's much more of a rising-and-falling rhythm than in the standard sermon.

One of Obama's great talents is his ability to speak above a clapping, screaming crowd. He just puts more force into his voice without sounding like, well, like Howard Dean when he would get riled up. It's hard to dispassionately listen to Barack Obama at all, let alone when he gets wound up.

He's clearly building a movement based upon an attraction to him and his general message of optimism and reconciliation, rather than specific policies. However, he did make clear commitments to end the Iraq War, to close Gitmo immediately and to end the practices of torture and extraordinary rendition.

I'm still astonished each time I say or type something like that. We have presidential candidates that have to make statements clarifying their positions regarding US officials torturing prisoners and the continued existence of a prison camp where individuals are held without charges, without access to lawyers, and who can be tried and convicted entirely without their participation or knowledge.

The Democratic bench is pretty deep this time around, I'd say. I favor Edwards, then Obama, then even Hillary Clinton, who I feel has gotten a bum rap for the last, oh, 15 years or so at least. Bill Richardson I still believe would make a pretty good VP or Secretary of State. My friend at the rally is an Obama supporter, and he told me that the President of our alma mater is very supportive of Obama. Both endorsements speak volumes to me; these are two very serious, informed men who have shown with their lives their commitment to social justice and providing assistance to the poor. I've been a part of several discussions over the desirability of an Edwards presidency versus Obama regarding those issues, with most people I've talked with so far favoring Edwards for that reason. But Barack Obama obviously inspires those concerned with social justice.

Hopefully I'll be able to see the other candidates as well. I'd even be willing to sit through the GOP candidates' nonsense, as long as I don't have to contribute to their campaigns.

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