William Rusher

It's a little early to be dismissing anybody as a possible 2006 Democratic presidential nominee, but at the risk of looking silly a year from now, I want to go on record as saying that, having brooded about it a while, I think Barack Obama is a flash in the pan who is highly unlikely to be taken seriously as a presidential possibility 18 months from now.

Vice president? Maybe. President? No.

Obama has flashed across the political horizon in the last month or so like a brilliant meteor in the sky. The media have gone wild about him, and eager Democrats in New Hampshire and elsewhere have followed suit. The very fact that he has emerged, politically speaking, from nowhere -- without any record to speak of, or any experience worth mentioning -- has actually worked in his favor. We know so little about him that he is almost impossible to criticize.

Instead, people find it easy to project onto him any characteristic that appeals to them. Leftist Democrats see in him a powerful champion of their causes. Centrist Democrats are sure he is the soul of moderation. Connoisseurs of political horseflesh are captivated by his charm and easy manner. As the saying goes, what's not to like?

Well, just for one thing, there's the little matter of qualifications to be president. We tend, reasonably enough, to pick our presidents from the ranks of governors and senators, or occasionally from the higher military echelons.

Obama put in eight years in the Illinois state senate, then practically fell -- when the Republican candidate self-destructed and was replaced by an obvious sacrifice -- into a seat in the U.S. Senate. As of the moment, he has occupied that seat for a little less than two years, and I defy anyone to mention anything he has accomplished in it.

Then there's the matter of what is sometimes portentously called "gravitas." In politics, this is simply the quality of seeming to take public affairs seriously and occasionally having some reasonable things to say about them. It comes most naturally to older people, but the young can possess it too: witness John F. Kennedy, who was younger (43) than Obama is now (45) when he was elected president in 1960. But Kennedy had been a decorated PT-boat commander in World War II, and had served eight (?) years in the U.S. Senate before he entered the White House. Obama has never served in the military at all, and has the misfortune of looking even younger than his years. He looks, to be blunt about it, like a gangly kid, albeit a lovable one.


William Rusher

William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .

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