WASHINGTON -- The convention speeches and party hoopla are over, the nominees have laid down their political markers, and now the race for the presidency hits full throttle. Americans have been doing this for more than 225 years, only this time, several things are quite different: The Democrats have nominated the first African-American in U.S. history whose candidacy has been fueled principally by his oratory and celebrity; and the Republicans have chosen the oldest nominee in our history, a vigorous 72-year-old war veteran, and the GOP's first female vice-presidential nominee. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The race will come down to the age-old political question: Whom do you trust to assume the powers of the presidency and protect our country from harm? Only this time, that question is far more ominous because of the candidates' glaring gap in political experience. John McCain of Arizona is a veteran House and Senate lawmaker who has led debates on the most important national-security and foreign-policy issues of our time and has a reputation for seeking bipartisan compromise in pivotal domestic-policy debates. Barack Obama is a former neighborhood organizer brought up in the cauldron of liberal, inner-city Chicago politics. Until a few years ago, he was an Illinois state senator known only for voting "present" when faced with tough decisions. Not to mention, Obama won his Senate seat in an election that had no serious opposition and as a freshman senator, has led no substantive legislative causes and hasn't engineered any compromises between warring factions -- though he mai!
ntains he will do so if elected. For most of the past three years and eight months, he has not been in the Senate, instead traveling the country to promote his best-selling biographies.
Over the past two weeks, much of the election coverage has been focused on vice-presidential selections. Obama chose Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a twice-failed presidential candidate who has been in the Senate forever with little accomplishment to speak of. His principal proposal in debates over Iraq was to divide up the country into three parts, predicting that Kurds, Shia and Sunni Muslims could never work together. Iraq, he insisted, would plunge into chaos. He was wrong on both counts, raising troubling questions about his judgment in a geopolitical crisis.