Change agent: a case for Obama

Andrew Sullivan (who, according to Wikipedia, has previously endorsed Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- but neither for re-election) has written a massive pitch for Barack Obama in The Atlantic. Sullivan's premise is that we are living in "a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever." He concludes that of all the candidates running for president, only Obama has a chance to transcend all that and bring about something better.

This section, in particular, caught my attention:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

Obama made a similar point when he came to the Monitor for an editorial board interview. At the end of the first audio clip here, he says: "The day I'm inaugurated, not only does the country look at itself differently, but . . . the world will look at America differently."

I was also struck by this passage comparing the merits of Obama's candidacy and Hillary Clinton's:

The paradox is that Hillary makes far more sense if you believe that times are actually pretty good. If you believe that America’s current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today’s ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong. Clinton will do.

John Edwards, at the last debate and increasingly on the campaign trail, has a punchier way of making (half) the same point: "If people want the status quo, Senator Clinton's your candidate." (You can watch him deliver the line here.)

Speaking of Edwards, his campaign is having too much fun making videos these days: One of the latest -- "Oops, our bad" -- is here. You can watch his (all-kidding-aside) new TV ad for New Hampshire voters here.