In the kerfuffle of yesterday’s anticipated Hillary concession speech that turned out to be a Hillary “yet to make a decision” pontification on why she in fact deserves the nomination, Barack Obama’s more powerful speech may have been overlooked, if only slightly. 

Clinton’s insistence on singing an entire aria before she dies forced Obama into claiming the nomination himself. A victory speech of sorts. He preached his message to the crowds of New York. “This is our moment, this is our time…” Sound familiar? Something to do with change?

The question floating around the press now is whether America is ready for Obama to make history as the first black President. Furthermore, does the relatively inexperienced senator have what it takes?

Here’s what the US media have to say.

This moment in history: Hard to believe, but he was not always the frontrunner. He came out of nowhere and defeated the most prominent female politician in America (and arguably the world), someone who is wedded to the only two-term Democratic president of the last 60 years, someone who supposedly would blow out the competition (especially a freshman senator) thanks to a combination of organizational muscle and financial prowess. And it’s important to remember that the political media (the same media that Bill Clinton whines about today) basically declared her the winner last year before a singe citizen had cast a vote. Indeed, on the day Obama announced his candidacy, The New York Times took care to remind readers that Clinton was dominant, due to her “years of experience in presidential politics, a command of policy and political history, and an extraordinarily battle-tested network of fundraisers and advisers.”. — Philadelphia Inquirer

It’s now all about respect: By winning the nomination, Obama supporters may feel that they have gained the upper hand in debates with Hillary supporters, but this is a false perception. This campaign is not over until the race is over. Political campaigns can never afford the luxury of feeling superior to anyone. Obama may have won the nomination but it will mean nothing if he does not win the General Election in November, and to do that he needs the votes and even the enthusiastic support of Hillary and her supporters. Clinton’s supporters cannot be insulted, bullied, or guilted into enthusiastic support in the fall. Like any other key voting bloc, Obama and his supporters can only gain these votes by understanding Clinton’s supporters’ real concerns, making a connection with them and making a compelling case for their support. We have no doubt that Barack Obama will personally offer Hillary Clinton his deep respect and ask for her support, and she will respond with her enthusiastic endorsement. But Obama supporters are not as reliably likely to think deeply and clearly about their real feeling toward the life-long Democrats who make up the backbone of Hillary’s electoral success. Hillary’s supporters’ threats to back McCain, or more likely sit the contest out, are more than just idle. —RealClearPolitics

Obama’s biggest hurdle his “funny name”: Obama, in an interview with Brian Williams tonight, crystallized the two-track attack he’s facing. On the surface, an argument about national security. And under the surface, what he calls “cultural issues”: race, his name, whispers about his religion and patriotism, his exotic childhood.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: What’s your biggest hurdle, as you view it, from the perch of less than 24 hours as the presumed nominee of your party?

BARACK OBAMA: I think that so far at least what we’ve been seeing from the Republicans is the attempt to paint me as a very risky choice as President, partly around national security but partly around cultural issues and– you know, he’s got a funny name. And we don’t know where he’s coming from. And– you know, he may be, you know– not sufficiently patriotic. I think that’s gonna be the race they run. — Politico

The Obama we don’t know: Democrats are nominating a freshman Senator barely three years out of the Illinois legislature whom most of America still hardly knows. In Mr. Obama, Democrats are taking a leap of faith that is daring even by their risky standards. No doubt this is part of his enormous appeal. Amid public anger over politics as usual, the Illinois Senator is unhaunted by Beltway experience. His personal story – of mixed race, and up from nowhere through Harvard – resonates in an America where the two most popular cultural icons are Tiger Woods and Oprah. His political gifts are formidable, especially his ability to connect with audiences from the platform. Yet govern how and to what end? This is the Obama Americans don’t know. For all of his inspiring rhetoric about bipartisanship, his voting record is among the most partisan in the Senate. His policy agenda is conventionally liberal across the board – more so than Hillary Clinton’s, and more so than that of any Democratic nominee since 1968. — The Wall Street Journal

When Democrats Go Post-al: The vicious Clinton-versus-Obama rupture at Daily Kos, the most activist site in the liberal blogosphere, reflects a party-wide split. What really rankles, as Democrats tear at one another, is the free pass they’ve given McCain—and the White House. It was supposed to be a run for the roses, only to turn into the chariot race from Ben-Hur, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama grimacing like Chuck Heston down the brutal homestretch, lashing toward a multi-horse pileup. No, this wasn’t anybody’s dream finish. After two terms of George W. Bush, which only seemed like a scarred eternity, American voters (so the scenario went) would be pining for Democratic recapture of the White House and a return to competency as a novel change of pace. Let the reclamation begin. Democrats had fallen in love with Obama, in heavy like with Hillary and Edwards. Once Edwards dropped out of the race, however, the buffer zone was removed, direct contact replaced triangulation, and the Obama and Hillary supporters faced off like the Jets and the Sharks. The rancor was disproportionate in intensity and extravagant in invective, a fervor worthy of ancestral foes. Months-old grievances seethed and erupted as if they had been bubbling for centuries in a lake of bad blood. On the most egoistic plane, it seemed like a clash of entitlements, the messianics versus the menopausals. — Vanity Fair

Two words with a ring of possibility: Black president. Two words profound and yet contradictory. Once thought of as an oxymoron, impossible to be placed together in the same sentence, context, country — unless followed by a question mark. Black president? This century? Black president — words perhaps as foreign as “green president.” And yet now, a black president seems a distinct possibility with Sen. Barack Obama heading into the general election as the Democratic presidential nominee. Black president. The two words evoke excitement, dread, great expectations, intense fear, incomprehension, power, the breadth of possibility. For some, those two words — black president — symbolize the smashing of a glass ceiling, whose splintered shards had fallen on others who had thrown rocks at it in vain. Black president, words that carry with them the hope of the Invisible Man, the Manchild in the Promised Land, the balm on the anxiety of a Native Son. Said with whispers. And gasps. Exhaled as if the accumulation of all the troubles of a people would be over, though those who know better know also that that won’t happen. Washington Post

Confidence, calm the key to Obama’s success: Until one night in Charleston, S.C., 10 months ago, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were just shadowboxing, politely charting separate paths to the Democratic nomination. Clinton was the establishment choice, next in line, the clear favorite. Obama was the political upstart who dared challenge convention. Their worldviews finally clashed in a July 23 debate at the Citadel. Asked whether he would meet unconditionally with leaders of rogue nations, Obama said yes. Clinton read it as an “ah-ha” moment revealing his fatal flaws: inexperience on the world stage, and a misunderstanding of how Washington worked. Surely, she figured, the Obama fad would fade as he stumbled. But Obama stood his ground and never looked back. He responded coolly and forcefully to Clinton’s criticism, calling her “Bush-Cheney lite.” — Boston Globe

Peter Fray

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