Barack who?

The first time I saw the name Barack Obama was in a blog entry by Lawrence Lessig instructing me to watch his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I did, as it’s always a good idea to do what Lessig says. And I came away thinking, wow. After two terms of John Kerry, I thought, he’d be a great Democratic candidate in 2012. I even vaguely remember mentioning his name to a few people, and forgetting whether “Barack” or “Obama” was his surname.

Lessig knew him from the University of Chicago and had first tipped him for the top in March 2004 when he was nominated for the US Senate: “And keep your eyes on 2012: when he will no longer be known as the 5th whatever, but will become the 3d and 1st in one year. (Consider it the Lessig Sunday Puzzle).” (Decoded to mean the fifth black US senator, the third to run for president, and the first to win.)

When I heard he was running for president in 2008 I didn’t believe he’d get the nomination: four years too soon, I thought. I thought Hillary Clinton would get it. So did she. She and her campaign team underestimated him completely, neither the first nor the last to do so.

And here we are, four years earlier than scheduled. Karl Rove’s proteges and their McCain/Palin puppets beaten, their smears laughed off, their lies disbelieved. The election not decided by lawyers or fraudulent machinery or appalling graphic design.

As I sat watching Obama’s victory speech at 5am, I thought about the change soon to sweep through Washington and the US, and the wider world. How much of a honeymoon will he have? Six months? At some point rhetoric and reality will collide, as it did with Blair. How many of Bush’s constitutional land-grabs will he return? What will actually happen in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo? Will he give his old mate Lawrence Lessig a job?

And, of course, how will the Secret Service cope? That one I prefer not to think about.

But most of all I can’t wait for the end of eight years of Bush. Historians will not look kindly upon his presidency; I believe that in thirty years or so we’ll look back and say, firmly, that this was when everything went to cock. The hanging chads of the 2000 Florida debacle were an omen.

I look forward to a president who can say the word “nuclear”, who can read a speech and sound like that’s not the first time he’s seen it. I look forward to a vice-president who doesn’t cause the Emperor’s Theme to immediately pop into my head whenever I see him on TV, and who is, actually, human. And I look forward to a White House that’s more West Wing than Green Wing.


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