Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON -- No year that saw a 778-point single-day stock market drop, the price of oil fluctuate by more than $100 a barrel and the death of Irvine Robbins -- the inventor of Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream -- can be called good. But the election of Barack Obama as president made 2008 important.

During a long political season, Obama was both charming and charmed -- favored by the gods of economic catastrophe, who turned a tight election into a Democratic mandate. A neophyte senator managed to combine inspiration with organization, progressive ideals with a conservative temperament, and a message of change with a manner of reassurance. As evidence, the "team of rivals" in his proposed Cabinet seems more like a team of professionals.

So far, Obama is attempting to be a unifying national figure -- in spite of his most insufferable supporters. "Indeed," explains Joe Klein of Time magazine, "as the weeks have passed since the election, I've felt -- as an urban creature myself -- less restricted, less defensive. Empowered, almost. Is it possible that, as a nation, we're shedding our childlike, rural innocence and becoming more mature, urban, urbane ... dare I say it, sophisticated?"

Indeed. Is it possible for a pundit to be more like a college freshman who has just discovered the pleasures of wine, co-ed dorms and Nietzsche -- shedding the primitivism of his parents and becoming, dare I say it, an annoying adolescent?

Obama does not need the service of nymphomaniacs on his honeymoon. In 2009, he will require sober supporters -- and loyal critics -- to get through challenges that will not yield to charm.

First, a nuclear Iran seems both inevitable and unacceptable. For the Iranian government -- representing a proud culture and resenting near, nuclear neighbors such as Pakistan -- the acquisition of nuclear capabilities seems reasonable. For any American administration -- fearful of Iran's terrorist connections, of the domination of a vital region by a radical government and of the prospect of a Middle East nuclear arms race -- Iranian nuclear capabilities are a strategic nightmare.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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