Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is Dead

"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: 'to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.' Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people." -Robert F. Kennedy on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., April 1968.

As I watch the raucous celebration outside the gates of the White House, it seems like the only thing missing are Ewoks cheering and dancing and banging on the helmets of Imperial stormtroopers.


The news that Osama bin Laden is dead changes nothing, but it also changes everything. Soon al-Qaeda will undoubtedly rebuke the news, claiming it means little, as it is an open secret that bin Laden has essentially been sidelined as a leader for some time. Already there is word that U.S. embassies around the globe have been placed on high alert in the event that someone, somewhere wants to retaliate. And all over the world, including right here at home, people will go to bed tonight hungry, penniless and even hunted by terrorism of various kinds - be it in Sudan or Libya, or Syria or Yemen, or elsewhere in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But it would be wrong not to at least partially acknowledge that this momentous news is a cacophonous, cathartic victory for not just Americans, but for people who pray for peace and freedom all over the world.

September 11, 2001 - God, can it be almost ten years already? - changed everything in this country, and with it, the world. A decade later, our politics and policies have irreparably changed forever, as have the ways we go about our daily business. Going to a stadium, getting on an airplane - it will never go back to the way it was. Civil liberties in this country have been in peril seemingly ever since September 12th of that year, and the Democratic president Obama has been just as aggressive in that regard as was his Republican predecessor. And that should be taken into account - that Obama has in large part virtually followed Bush's exact course in counterterrorism policies, torture being the biggest (and a very important) difference.

But this is an amazing moment for the president, and for our country, and especially for all those who died on 9/11, their families and for all of us who lived through that awful day - and who are still living through its ramifications. Bin Laden's death makes it feel like all the endless suffering of the past ten years - the war in Afghanistan, the needless war in Iraq, "Mission Accomplished," all the huffing and puffing of the Bush years, the disappointment in some of Obama's Middle East policies - was all worth something. Oh, you can argue with how we got here, and I certainly have. And this doesn't vindicate Guantanamo Bay, for example. But take a moment to reflect this news. Osama bin Laden has been killed, by U.S. forces. According to the president, this is what our troops and intelligence personnel have been fighting for, at least since Obama's inauguration.

Part of me wants to take a step back, and tell myself this isn't a big deal, and I shouldn't get my hopes up, that this country itself has done and is capable of some questionable moral actions in its history. And all that is true. I am against the operation in Libya, as I am in Iraq, and I could talk your ear off about all the problems we have at home. But, after all the terror Osama bin Laden caused on and after 9/11, we deserve a night like this.

Sometimes, it's okay simply to celebrate someone or something evil getting its due. It doesn't make America perfect, or mean that we are above criticism. It doesn't end terrorism, nor does it even begin to put a dent in all the problems in the world. It certainly doesn't change my own personal life one bit. And, believe you me, there is something strange about celebrating someone's death. But I am filled with satisfaction that, at least for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, justice has been served.

And in spite of all the problems and hypocrisies apparent from time to time, America remains the place most associated with liberty in this world, as well as the country with the greatest capability for good. We have problems in this country, including politicians and citizens who peddle poisonous beliefs and even untruths to the masses. But overall, the heart of this country is good, our wishes are pure, and, always, we hope for the best.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Inspiration for the Gay - and Straight - Communities

I begin this post knowing that the Wyoming House of Representatives just passed a terrible bill outlawing gay marriages AND civil unions performed in other states. Don't Ask Don't Tell, while technically repealed, will not fully disappear from the books for about another year or so. And elsewhere around the world, gay people are routinely tormented - and sometimes murdered - simply for loving the way nature intended them to love.

Yet, in the midst of all this, I found this amazing clip of a young woman - a high school student, in fact - who bravely got up in front of her entire assembled student body and came out of the closet. I repeat: this girl is in high school. And she appears to have the wisdom and courage of someone twice or even three times her age:

For the record, her name is Kayla Kearney, and she attends Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, CA (northern California).

This is what it's going to take to achieve full LGBT equality in our country. This is what has to happen. In spite of all the tragic, terrible news that often permeates the airwaves - the suicides, the discrimination, states voting to take away people's rights - every now and then someone and something like this comes along. Someone comes along who is strong enough to say, loudly and proudly, "THIS IS WRONG - and, deep in your heart, those of you who are not gay or feel unaffected by this - you know it to be wrong, too."

Andrew Sullivan, a pioneer on gay rights and marriage in particular, has written eloquently that, until gay people as a whole are confident enough to be BOLD, and VOCAL, about their sexuality, full equality will not be attainable. It's not enough to be quiet about it - even if you're not being discriminated against. It takes being out to those around you, because that's the only way to put a human face on something that is often misunderstood. With even just one or two degrees of separation, everyone everywhere (for the most part) knows someone who is gay. They are brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, friends, co-workers, teachers, students, acquaintances - they are there, right in front of you. But until they know that these ordinary people in their lives are gay - until they can demystify and connect to it on a personal level - it will remain difficult to change minds for the better.

But - it takes bold, brave steps like this one. Brava to this young girl, indeed. What a fighter.

(Editor's Note: I wanted to embed this video directly into the post, but I first found this video at Towleroad via this link.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Quick Recap

More to come later, but here's a recap for now:

I found the speech to be simultaneously predictable boilerplate but also quite effective. Obama seems to have grown into his role as president, or - as John King just put it on CNN - "the guy in the middle." He wants to be the reasonable guy in the center of the circle, surrounded by the screaming nincompoops on each side. Ever since November, with the crushing at the polls, he seems to have found somewhat of a stride - first with the lame duck, then with his speech in Tucson, and finally with tonight.

I got the sense that he relishes the coming congressional session. Two months ago, the conventional wisdom was that he would be bloodied and battered and terrified of legislative battles with an emboldened Republican Party. But I don't think that's the case. This has given him the opportunity to stretch his legs and, as one commentator put it, be the president he's always wanted to be.

On policy - yawn. No earth-shattering, New Frontier-like proposals or anything. But I applaud the focus on renewable energy, education and the economy. They are, of course, intertwined, and altogether represent the most important issue(s) facing our country.

I'll post a roundup of reactions and analysis later tonight and tomorrow. But for now, dinner!

State of the Union LIVE Blog

7:11 PM. "The state of our union is strong" - told ya! An unusual but effective choice to CLOSE with this line, rather than open with it.

7:09 PM. The Chilean miners! Obama inspirational, Biden smiley, Boehner teary.

7:07 PM. Back to the American exceptionalism/"unity" thing. Vintage Obama. He seems really passionate about this theme tonight, and he did in Tucson as well. Mentions the American Dream and how that's the only way he, Biden and Boehner are up there tonight. Boehner getting a little glass-eyed again...

7:05 PM. Throwing in DADT reference. Standing ovation from the left; no clapping from the military. Maybe that's protocol? Also calls on opening college campuses to military recruiting and ROTC. That gets everybody up.

6:58 PM. Sticking with that July 2011 Afghanistan withdrawal date.

6:57 PM. Says the Iraq War - yeah, remember that? - is coming to an end. A bipartisan standing ovation. Time to get the fuck out of there. Also mentions that American Muslims "are part of our American family," accompanied by another standing ovation. Very nice to see.

6:54 PM. Says the Obama Administration is developing a proposal to "merge, consolidate and reorganize" the federal government within the next year. Pretty shrewd - and conservative.


6:48 PM. Says we have to stop pretending that just cutting discretionary spending will be enough. Republicans always say, "Let's cut discretionary spending" - and that's it. Which is, of course, bullshit. Also brings up Bowles-Simpson, thankfully. He seems very serious on this issue, as he should be, and I commend him for it.

6:47 PM. Makes the point that the deficit began "a decade ago" - in other words, when Republicans were completely in charge. "Our government spends more than it takes in - that is not sustainable." Proposes freezing annual domestic spending for five years, and says it would reduce the deficit by $400 billion. Says it will require painful cuts. Sounded pretty moderate for a "big spending Democrat." Yet Boehner & Co. look permanently glum-faced.

6:45 PM. "Let's fix what needs fixing, and let's move forward." Still a lot of seated Republicans, though. How obstructionist can they be, seriously?

6:43 PM. Health care reform. There it is! The mixed seating makes it hard to see who's standing and who's not. "I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law, so let me be the first to say: anything can be improved." Directly calls on Republicans to work with him on health care reform-reform.

6:39 PM. Can't help myself: Chuck Grassley, what on earth are you wearing?

6:38 PM. Wants more investment in infrastructure. Yes, great idea. "Pick projects based on what's good for the economy, not politicians." Wants 80% of Americans to have access to high-speed rail in 20 years. And flying without the pat down. Woo hoo!

6:36 PM. High-speed rail! Yeah! Obama says our infrastructure used to be the best in the world, but not anymore. Before the conservatives start whining about "hating" America, I have news for you - he's right!

6:35 PM. Obama seems to have seized on the theme of his Tucson speech, about using the Giffords tragedy to make a better America the way 9 year-old Christina Greene would have dreamt it. I'm sensing echoes of that theme in this speech tonight. He started with a reference to the little girl and just had a big section tying in education to - obviously - the hopes and dreams of young children.

6:32 PM. "If you want to make the difference in the life of a child, become a teacher - your country needs you." And another standing ovation. My mother, an English teacher, is LOVING this speech.

6:31 PM. "What is this, some Republican thing?" -the words of a 13 year-old

6:28 PM. I'm encouraged by the pivot from a clean energy economy to educating young people. Obama, rightfully so, is being frank about the declining education standards in this country. He asks if we, "as citizens or parents, are willing to do what is necessary to see every child succeed." Says it's start in the homes - "making sure the TV gets turned off... It's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrating, but the winner of the science fair." I love it. Pretty good stuff, especially coming from an obviously-disappointed Chicago Bears fan.

6:25 PM. Obama wants one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. It's a start, I guess, but in a nation of over 300 million people that is one damn small benchmark. But, like I said, at least it's a start. You'd never hear Bush or McCain talk about that.

6:24 PM. Renewable energy. Coulda seen that one coming. This really is the new frontier of the world's environment and economy, and it's time this country started getting serious about it. Obama included an investment in green infrastructure in the stimulus, but we need more of it - and not just because of the jobs it will create; our planet is in peril!

6:19 PM. For the knuckleheads on the right who say that Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, this opening section is proving them wrong (they were, of course, wrong already).

6:17 PM. Biden, on the other hand, has the "seriously concerned" look glued to his face.

6:16 PM. In her first State of the Union, Pelosi had an infamous blinking problem. Boehner occasionally looks like he's trying to motorboat the air.

6:14 PM. "The stake is whether new industries take root in this country, or somewhere else." First (indirect) reference to the economy, as well as to China kicking our collective asses.

6:12 PM. "There's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause... Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are, or where we come from, each of us is part of something greater... we are part of the American family... we are still bound together as one people." Brings up "the dreams of a little girl in Tucson" - obviously Christina Greene.

6:10 PM. The obligatory Gabrielle Giffords acknowledgement. Obama has said two sentences and gotten two standing ovations.

6:10 PM. First prediction comes true: Obama acknowledges Boehner as the new Speaker. Should I drink?

6:08 PM. The President gets to the podium. Hey, whaddya know, there just so happened to be extra copies of the speech underneath the microphone! Who put THAT there?

6:07 PM. Obama thinks Hillary looks good too! OKAY SERIOUSLY I'LL STOP NOW

6:05 PM. In other news, I will try to refrain from commenting on clothing and appearances from here on out. Except to point out that hideously chartreuse suit worn by the woman who just kissed Obama.

6:04 PM. In comes Obama, in a dark periwinkle tie. It's gonna match with Boehner's!

5:58 PM. On the other hand, I like Hillary's hair - both color and style.

5:57 PM. I don't know how I feel about Michelle's dress per se, but I like the color.

5:55 PM. Who knew the ambassador of Djibouti was the "dean" of the diplomatic corps?

5:54 PM. Seeing Piers Morgan on the CNN panel is hilarious. If only he could judge the politicians tonight the way he judges the contestants on America's Got Talent!

5:51 PM (PST). CNN just showed Biden and Boehner speaking. I'll miss seeing Pelosi on that dais. However, the contrast between Boehner's purple tie and orange face is quite striking.

President Obama's 2nd State of the Union

I've been in Oscar mode all day (and what a mode to be in, seriously) so I haven't been focusing as closely on tonight's State of the Union. Here are a few last-minute predictions:
  1. Daniel Hernandez, the "hero intern" from the Giffords shooting, will get a standing ovation (he'll be sitting with Michelle Obama).
  2. Obama will make a reference to Republicans and Democrats sitting together.
  3. Obama will acknowledge Speaker Boehner in his new gig, and welcome the freshmen to Congress.
  4. Somebody somewhere will say something about the economy.
  5. The "state of our union" will either be "strong" or, as it was last year, "getting stronger every day" (or something along those lines).
  6. If you're playing a drinking game that involves drinking on the words "economy," "come together" or "spending," you're gonna get wasted.

Snap Judgments Pt. II: 'The King's Speech' vs. 'The Social Network'

STILL KINDA SLEEPY - but loving it. More snap judgments on why The King's Speech is perfectly positioned to upset The Social Network for Best Picture.

FYI - not saying that it WILL, but if it DOES, here's why:

Based on the fact that Social Network has won every single critics' award under the sun, it will - and probably should - still be considered the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars, even though it's tied for third (with Inception) in the nominations count with eight. Also, keep in mind that Inception was snubbed for two nods which I felt would be fairly obvious for it to grab: Director and Editing. But I digress.

Back to Social Network. Critics' prizes up the wazoo, as well as the Globe. But it got (relatively) little love from the Academy. Eight nominations is still a lot, but the real story this morning is how well True Grit did, along with the expected leader in the nominations count, The King's Speech. Meanwhile, Social Network has a not-insignificant snub to deal with in Andrew Garfield's lack of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. True, he didn't get a SAG nod, but most prognosticators felt he'd score an Oscar nod.

Much of the time, the film with the most nominations is the automatic front-runner. Not always the case, because sometimes big, bloated spectacle-style films can rack up a ton of nominations in technical categories but don't get nominated where it really counts (like in acting or writing). Think Avatar from last year: tied with eventual winner The Hurt Locker with nine nominations apiece, but it had no acting or writing nods - it was nominated for Picture, Director and a ton of technical awards, and that was it. It was dead on arrival.

This year, the film with the most nominations - The King's Speech - has a TON of love from the Academy, all across the board. It's nominated in every acting category but Best Actress (where it didn't have a nominee to push for a spot), plus writing, directing and lots of technical awards. True Grit, in a way, is almost King's Speech-lite as it's got double-digit nominations, and it's got 'em where it really counts. Social Network is a shoo-in for Aaron Sorkin's adapted screenplay, plus David Fincher's probably still got the Director prize in his back pocket and Jesse Eisenberg is nominated for Best Actor. But no Garfield is potentially worrisome. The film did get nods for Original Score and Editing, which always bode well for a Best Picture. But I think there's a real chance of an upset here.

Put simply, The King's Speech has the most nominations, strong support within the Academy, just won the Producer's Guild (PGA) top prize, is poised to win at the BAFTAs and possibly the SAG Awards - and everyone thinks the other film is a shoo-in to win.

My money is still on The Social Network, because I do think to some extent its relatively-small nomination total was unavoidable: it's a not a movie built to rack up the Oscar nods. Plus, it's the best-reviewed movie of the year, producer Scott Rudin will push it hard and it'd be a shame if the Academy didn't reward what is clearly the best American movie of the year. But there's a real path to an upset by The King's Speech, which might be the first 12-nomination, acting-writing-directing-editing nominated film in history that is still considered by many to be an underdog.

Oscar Nomination Snap Judgments

It might not be safe to judge me on these come the day of the ceremony! The disclaimer, obviously, is that it's 6 A.M. here in Los Angeles and my brain is still trying to process being awake, let alone writing for all the Internets to see.

Not too many surprises this morning, but there were a few. Here they are, along with other snap judgments regarding today's Academy Award nominations:
  1. True Grit back from the dead: After being snubbed at the Globes, and with indications that past winners the Coen Bros. probably would NOT be recognized for directing, the Coen Bros. WERE recognized for directing AND the movie had the second-most nominations, with 10
  2. Andrew Garfield overlooked for Best Supporting Actor in the role that is the heart of the film that is supposed to be the front-runner. I'm not saying this is a death knell by any means for The Social Network, but I can't take it as GOOD news by any means.
  3. The Academy just can't bring itself to dig Christopher Nolan. The whole reason we now have 10 Best Picture nominees is because, two years, the Academy made one of its biggest snubs ever and failed to nominate Nolan's film The Dark Knight. They've nominated Inception this time around, but snubbed the Brit of a Best Director slot, something that seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Coen Bros. presumably took that slot. So the moral of the story is, in the eyes of the Academy: Coens > Nolan
  4. Javier Bardem! The former winner (for a Coen Bros. film), in a bit of an upset, won a Best Actor nomination for his role in Biutiful. It's the first time ever that a leading actor nominee's performance was entirely in Spanish.
  5. Hailee Steinfeld's nom is Michelle Williams' gain. Not a surprise in the least that the 14 year-old heroine of True Grit was nominated, but there had been some thinking recently that she'd get nominated as Best Actress (since she drives the movie) and not Best Supporting Actress (which she was being pushed for, because she's 14). But in the end, Supporting it was - which kept open a spot for the much-loved indie queen Michelle Williams as a Best Actress nominee for Blue Valentine, but presumably kept Mila Kunis (Black Swan) out of the Supporting race.
  6. John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor: The Winter's Bone actor presumably grabbed Andrew Garfield's spot.
  7. Jacki Weaver for Best Supporting Actress: The veteran Australian actress duplicated her Golden Globes nod by getting nominated for her chilling turn in Animal Kingdom. Largely expected in many quarters, but it's still somewhat of a coup considering her film is probably the least-seen of any nominee in a major category (acting, directing, writing, picture).
In the end, what I'm most interested in is the fact that The Social Network got "only" eight nominations, which puts it in third place behind The King's Speech with 12 and True Grit (!) with 10. Granted, Social Network is not a movie designed to get tons of Oscar nominations, whereas King's Speech or True Grit are - because they can rack up nods in the technical categories like art direction, costumes, etc. But I did get somewhat of a sense that, if Social Network is to cap off awards season with a Best Picture win, it will need to have a strong core of support within the Academy, because judging from the nominations alone the voters seem to be a bit ambivalent about it. Considering the fact that it's won almost everything up to this point, it's at least one of two front-runners (along with King's Speech; 10 nominations notwithstanding, I don't think True Grit is winning). But when you throw into the mix the fact that King's Speech got 12 nominations, just won the Producer's Guild prize for Best Picture, blew everyone out of the water at the BAFTAs (I know, they're British) AND the fact that Social Network is third among most-nominated films (with a not-insignificant snub in Andrew Garfield), you begin to get the feeling that Social Network's support within the Academy might be a little shakier than previously thought.

It's going to take a bit more than expected for the Academy to crown "the Facebook movie," especially when a heart-warming, old-fashioned piece of (British!) entertainment is sitting there for the taking - along with the Coen Bros., now firmly entrenched in the establishment, as a very dark horse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bill Maher vs. the Tea Party

(Hat tip: Talking Points Memo)

Obama 2.0, or Obama 1.0's Clone, Or... Whatever

Earlier this morning I made the assertion that one of the biggest problems with Obama's presidency so far has been its deficiencies in marketing. When you're a president who can claim a long list of impressive policy achievements - yet a lot of people seem to think you've been completely ineffective - you have a problem with your message. So this struck me as interesting news:
Like President George W. Bush but unlike President Bill Clinton, Obama's campaign reelection team will be made up of familiar faces. The fundamental authors of the president's narrative, strategy, and world view remain the same: Messina, Plouffe, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, and Valerie Jarrett. They'll change geography, they'll change jobs, they'll change titles -- but they remain in charge.
This will either work out quite well or could be potentially problematic. The aforementioned people - particularly David Plouffe and David Axelrod - were the head honchos in charge of Obama's 2008 campaign (the "Hope" and "Change" people). But this is the same group - minus Plouffe, largely - that has also reigned over the enigmatic first two years of what should be perceived as a very accomplished presidency.

Maybe these guys are just better at campaigning than they are at governing. Plouffe and Axelrod are campaign guys, largely, and, prior to joining Obama's team, Jarrett had been in the private sector for a long time (though she did work in the Chicago mayor's office for a while). Gibbs has always seemed to me like your classic Washington insider kinda guy - which is neither an entirely good thing nor an entirely bad thing (though I would have gone with a different kind of energy for press secretary).

The good news, of course, is that the Republican field of potentials appears to be laughably lame, at least at the moment. In a tough economy with high unemployment, anything is possible, but these guys have already decisively beaten a well-known, well-liked, former war hero, so I don't think a Mama Grizzly, a Mormon or Chuck Norris's BFF are going to have them shaking in their boots.

Two Years In

It's Toddler Time in our nation's capital. Barack Obama's presidency turns two years old at exactly 12 EST today. While those in the Tea Party would call it the "Terrible Twos," the reality of his presidency is, I think, a bit more complicated. What have we learned about President Obama & Co. in his first 24 months as commander-in-chief?
  1. Guantanamo Bay is still open, and its closure is now a year behind schedule. I think the chances of Martian terrorists invading the U.S. are higher than Obama ever being able to close the Cuban detention center.
  2. Health Care Reform - good or bad, yes or no, "socialist" or not, the issue - and the hyperbolic passions it inspires on both sides of the political spectrum - is the signature issue of this presidency, and it may remain that way for quite some time.
  3. For all their successes during the 2008 campaign, the Obama marketing guys seem to have done a pretty poor job in the White House thus far. If you cute through the bullshit, this president can actually boast a string of accomplishments: he pulled the economy back from the abyss, saved the American auto industry, isolated a terrible regime in Iran, passed landmark health care legislation, repealed DADT, won a Nobel Peace Prize and has remarkably stayed roughly around 50% approval with the country mired in 10% unemployment for two years - yet until recently the prevailing narrative has been largely focused on how weak and ineffective Obama's presidency has been. Paging the "HOPE" and "CHANGE" people - where have you guys been the past two years? Time to get that mojo back for 2012.
  4. In his own twisted, torturous way, Obama has proven himself to be a legitimate fighter for gay rights. He repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, and he did it legislatively - by far the most effective way in the long run. Despite all the bullshit leading up to it (and the bullshit that persists, like his Department of Justice continuing to defend DOMA in the courts), he deserves a lot of credit for this. As does, oddly enough, Joe Lieberman. But like, let's not get crazy or anything.
  5. Obama the campaigner? Oratorically awesome and endlessly inspiring. Obama the president? Kinda professorial and boring at press junkets. BUT: Dude can still give a great speech. Whomever is the Republican nominee in 2012, you better watch yourself on the campaign trail.
  6. Hillary Clinton: O's former rival for the presidency is doing a great job as Secretary of State.
  7. John McCain: O's former rival for the presidency is a bitter, petty shell of his former self who has compromised everything he once stood for to settle political scores. In English, this type of person is known as a DOUCHEBAG.
  8. March Madness is more fun with Obama as president because ESPN obsesses over his bracket.
  9. Partly because of the economy, partly because of a black president, partly because they're crazy, Tea Party madness is in full swing and will make or break the next two years for Obama - it'll either totally sabotage his presidency or give him a chance to truly shine, rise above it all and be the kind of president he always wanted to be (I'm betting on the latter).
  10. Dude ain't no socialist.
What a long, strange trip it's been. I'm proud to say that, even after voting for this man twice (first in the primary, then in the general) I have remained healthily skeptical of him as much as possible. I've applauded when appropriate, but I have disagreed with him on a great number of things. He has compromised on some promises, but delivered on others.

The general state of the country still isn't great, and in my most pessimistic moods I fear it never will be again. One man with two years on the job does not constitute a miracle maker by any means. But I'd rather this guy be president than anyone else. Just take a quick look at the political landscape and you can see all the losers, particularly amongst the Republicans, who would vie to take his place - Palin, Romney, Huckabee, etc. Barack Obama remains the guy for this job - even if "Hope" and "Change" often feels like a distant dream from way back when (which, of course, it is).