In Politics, a Return to Respectful Discourse

Senator Barack Obama has made the right decision in his choice of longtime Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his vice presidential running mate. Now Americans have a ticket everyone can support: The 47-year-old freshman senator from Illinois with the dynamic message and the powerful oratory skills and a six-term veteran of the Senate with top credentials in foreign affairs.

Any perceived experience gaps in the presidential candidate have now been supplemented by the skills and know-how of a man widely considered the most informed Senate expert in diplomatic matters. Biden also brings to the ticket a free-wheeling style and an amazing feel for working-class ethnics across the country. He's an Irish-American (his mother was a Finnegan) with roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and is well liked on both sides of the political divide.

But Barack Obama also has Irish roots. His mother is a descendant of a man who came to America from Ireland's County Offaly in 1850 to escape the Famine, the "Great Hunger" that resulted in so many finding refuge in our great country. It is to be hoped, even expected that this new Obama-Biden ticket will come out of Denver with its feet on the ground, its eyes open and its ears ready to hear the message of change that the citizenry is sending.

On the convention's first night, there was a refreshing departure from partisan, hardball politics. The inspirational speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy, followed by the powerful introduction to her family and their story by Michelle Obama, struck just the right chord. The "commentariat" - those people who get paid to parse and grouse about every last political nuance - posited that the first night should have been all about attacking John McCain. But they had it wrong, and it is evident these bloviators simply haven't grasped the Obama message, which is: It's a new day, it's a new-style politics, and swift-boat style attacks should be seen for what they are.

Obama knows the country needs a return to informed and respectful political discourse. The "slash-and-burn" tactics have become a plague on the Democratic and Republican houses, and frankly are quite beneath us all. The dignified tone of Monday's speakers crested on Tuesday night, when Obama's former chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, delivered a passionate message of reconciliation and unification to the party faithful.

In truth, even though she did not succeed in winning the nomination, it could hardly be said that Sen. Clinton lost. Her campaign was never "about me," she told her supporters, and she's right. It was about restoring a shared political philosophy to the governance of the country.

While watching her speech, we reflected that almost three decades earlier, after failing to capture the nomination of the party,  Senator Kennedy had spoken at the 1980 convention. Kennedy supporters were disappointed then, too, yet he returned to his legislative work and forged a career that marks him as a legendary United States Senator.  With Senator Clinton huge national popularity, she can be expected to have a major role in the Senate for the next generation

Less than ten weeks remain until we pick a new president. One ticket is known, and the Republicans will nominate John McCain and his running mate next week. The political parties will have done their jobs, offering their best nominees.

It is up to us to cut through the chaff and the nonsense, to find out about what the candidates say and what they offer, and then to decide what we want for ourselves and our country.

By definition, every election is historic; this year's vote seems destined to be monumental.


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