If there were no polls, you could still tell that Barack Obama is ahead in the U. S. presidential race from the way his campaign is taking the high road. If Sarah Palin wants to hear kind words these days, her safest bet is to listen to Michelle Obama.
"I think [Gov. Palin] provides an excellent example of all the different roles a woman can and should play," declared Mrs. Obama this week in North Carolina. If she had spoken in Sanskrit, she would have sounded like the sage Shankara. Gone was the old Michelle who called her country "just downright mean." The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's angry parishioner has been replaced by this elegant figure who gracefully acknowledges her husband's supporters and even speaks kindly about his detractors. The previous Michelle didn't seem half as stylish, though perhaps a trifle more genuine.
Everybody drops something for high office. Sarah Palin drops her g's. The Obamas drop their acquaintances.
One wonders how often Michelle sees Mona Khalidi these days? Do they go for coffee once in a while? I hope so. Should old acquaintance be forgot? No, but it happens. People outgrow each other; they develop different interests. One may develop an interest in becoming First Lady.
Mona's husband is Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American academic. Republican candidate John McCain has described Professor Khalidi as an erstwhile spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. When Obama was chummy with ex-Weather Underground terrorist Bill "I don't regret setting bombs" Ayers, who sat with Barack on the board of an "anti-poverty" charity called the Woods Foundation, they gave money to the American-Arab Action Network, run by Mona. The Khalidis and the Obamas socialized, and in 2000 the Khaldis hosted a polical fundraiser for the future Democratic presidential nominee.
What a difference a day makes, says the song, let alone eight years. There was no presidency on the horizon for the Obamas back in 2000. They could associate with whomever they liked -- and
they seemed to like Rashid and Mona Khalidi and Bill Ayers and the Reverend Wright. Choosing associates is a fundamental human right, of course; I'd go to the barricades to defend it.
Mind you, I'd also defend anybody's human right to say: "Barack, old chap, given the company you keep, if the Republicans ran a yellow dog against you, I'd vote for it."
Well, some say, that's pretty much what the Republicans have done. They've entered a bulldog wearing lipstick.
Needless to say, Michelle and Barack also have a fundamental human right to say: "Well, Rashid, Mona, Bill, Reverend and the rest of you flaming lefties, it was a privilege knowing you. Now let's cool it. Like, thanks for the memories, and what did you say your name was?"
Would this cut the ice with the FBI? Who cares? One may need a security clearance for a government job, but for the presidency all one needs is votes. Welcome Barack -- or "Blessed Peach," as I think of him, because that's what his name means, respectively, in Arabic and in Hungarian.
Talking of names, there's Bill Clinton. I wonder if eight years ago he as much as knew the name of the man he introduced this week to a crowd in Kissimmee, Florida, as: "The next president, unless Americans forget what this election is about."
Well, yes. Americans may forget that the election is about salvaging as much power as possible for Mr. Clinton's Democratic kit and kaboodle. But Americans don't need to remember that to make Blessed Peach their next president.
Joe the Plumber campaigns, but Victor/ ia the Voter pulls the lever. The question is, what's the election about for Victor/ ia? Is it the economy, national security, the environment --or is it people? In either case Obama wins, but not by the same margin.
Victor/ia could choose a short-tempered, older man, not in the best of health, who has a few ideas, some good, some bad, and who is stubborn enough to insist on all, including a running mate, with not enough books and too many pregnancies in her family.
Or s/he could go for a younger, calmer, healthier fellow, a kind of black Jimmy Carter. If his ideas aren't very good, well, at least they aren't very numerous. The way he drops old associates shows flexibility. He insists on little, except change: Change from senator to president.
Nice-looking family, too. A slim wife and two girls who seem less bratty than Jimmy Carter's Amy. Their mother says they aren't even allowed to jump on the sofa.
This may be what this election turns on. People, stubborn and flexible, albeit about different things. A well-spoken, elegant Harvardiste who won't let her daughters jump on the sofa, versus a lipstick-wearin' bulldog of a g-dropper who did. If so, it will be a close-run thing.