Charles Krauthammer

The premise here is true -- Obama does transcend race; he has not run as a candidate of minority grievance; his vision of America is unmistakably post-racial -- but the conclusion does not necessarily follow. It is merely suggested in Obama's rhetorically brilliant celebration of American unity: "young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian -- who are tired of a politics that divides us." Hence "the choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white. It's about the past versus the future."

The effect of such sweeping invocations of unity is electric, particularly because race is the deepest and most tragic of all American divisions, and this invocation is being delivered by a man who takes us powerfully beyond it. The implication is that he is therefore uniquely qualified to transcend all our other divisions.

It is not an idle suggestion. It could be true. The problem is that Obama's own history suggests that, in his case at least, it is not. Indeed, his Senate record quite belies the implication.

The Obama campaign has sent journalists eight pages of examples of his reaching across the aisle in the Senate. But these are small-bore items of almost no controversy -- more help for war veterans, reducing loose nukes in the former Soviet Union and the like. Bipartisan support for apple pie is hardly a profile in courage.

On the difficult compromises that required the political courage to challenge one's own political constituency, Obama flinched: the "gang of 14" compromise on judicial appointments, the immigration compromise to which Obama tried to append union-backed killer amendments, and, just last month, the compromise on warrantless eavesdropping that garnered 68 votes in the Senate. But not Obama's.

Who, in fact, supported all of these bipartisan deals, was a central player in two of them, and brokered the even more notorious McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform? John McCain, of course.

Yes, John McCain -- intemperate and rough-edged, of sharp elbows and even sharper tongue. Turns out that uniting is not a matter of rhetoric or manner, but of character and courage.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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