The Campaign Spot

Would Obama Be ‘The First Genuinely 21st-Century Leader’?

Roger Cohen doesn’t hide his enthusiasm for an Obama presidency:

If nominated, Obama’s family baggage will get pored over. Four years ago, Bush’s people cast Kerry as un-American for speaking French. A Republican camp campaigning at the sorry nadir of Bush’s handiwork will try to portray the war hero John McCain as more American and patriotic than his opponent.
But things are different. Less fearful, Americans are less willing to be manipulated. They’ve backed Obama this far in part because they’re sick of the narrow American exceptionalism of Bush’s divisive rule…
If elected, Obama would be the first genuinely 21st-century leader. The China-Indonesia-Kenya-Britain-Hawaii web mirrors a world in flux. In Kenya, his uncle Sayid, a Muslim, told me: “My Islam is a hybrid, a mix of elements, including my Christian schooling and even some African ways. Many values have dissolved in me.”Obama’s bridge-building instincts come from somewhere. They are rooted and proven. For an expectant and often alienated world, they are of central significance.

Earlier in the column, before he states with certainty that John “path-to-citizenship” McCain is going to run a xenophobic campaign, Cohen notes, “In all, Obama Sr. [the father of the presidential candidate] fathered eight children by four women.”
I agree that Obama’s background is quite different from preceding presidents. But I wonder if Cohen is overestimating the selling point. I can’t picture someone saying, “well, I was going to vote for the other guy, until I learned that Obama has a half-brother in China, and that changes everything.”
By the way, if a familial tie to a relative from another land is such a qualification for the presidency, why is there no mention of John McCain’s daughter, who he and Cindy adopted from a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa in 1991?


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