First, we take Manhattan/then we take that Starbucks on the corner…

News item: Barack Obama clinches the Democratic party nomination for President of the United States.

Now, I’m not normally a political animal – if you’re looking for profound or provocative punditry, there are many better choices of blog out there. But I did spend a few minutes the other day rolling the possible ramifications around my mind: US President Barack Obama…President Obama…

News item: Michelle Malkin, professional rightwing whackjob, harasses Dunkin’ Donuts into pulling an ad featuring Rachael Ray in a scarf that could, in some remote parallel universe wherein everyonelooking at it was a right-wing whackjob, be construed as a homage to an Arab keffiyeh headdress, by claiming that this clearly ‘supports Islamic jihad.’

…So, he really doesn’t have a hope in hell, does he?

Now, I realise the vast majority of respondents have reacted to this ‘controversy’ with the horselaugh it deserves – just personally, I await Malkin’s follow-up post in which she announces she’s cracked the code in Ray’s Tasty Travels series that indicates which of America’s coffee shoppes the jihad will nuke first. If she orders an apple Danish, it’s good-by Kalamazoo.

The thing is, though…this stuff still makes news, in America. It’s still possible for even the most obviously loopy ultra-right-winger to set PR  alarm bells ringing just by invoking Arabic custom. Not terrorist, not Palestinian, not even Muslim; Arabic. Even when there’s evidence of American soldiers in Iraq wearing the damn things. (Seems they keep out the heat and dust real good. Their value as inconspicuous covert terrorist mission attire, on the other hand…)

In this climate, no, ‘President Obama’ doesn’t roll easily off the tongue, at least to this bemused observer.

In terms of pure entertainment value, though, this election promises to be the most enthralling thing to hit the public eye since…well…I dunno, I’ve heard the Kennedy-Nixon debates mentioned often, but there’s a quixotic streak to this latest national watershed that belongs especially to these post-millennial times. At the end of it we’ll know more about the American mindset than maybe we ever wanted to – what’s really under all that happy content consumerism, once it’s been stripped away.

Fascinating choice, really; there’s no real safe status quo. The GOP candidate, Bush’s nominal successor, is seventy-one and has major health issues. The Democratic alternative is a young guy with major baggage. Do Americans want change enough to take a risk, or fear it enough to prop up a rickety figurehead?

(And, just as a parenthetical aside to my original musings, what happens if one candidate actually dies during the campaign? Does that mean that the other just gets swept in unanimously, or is it one of those things where the Vice-Presidential candidate takes over and runs in his fallen leader’s stead? Is this why Obama’s hesitating to name Hilary as his running-mate? The mind boggles.)

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