Debra J. Dickerson

Barack Obama would be the great black hope in the next presidential race — if he were actually black.

I am confident that I have held out longer than any other pundit to weigh in on both the phenomenon that is Barack Obama and the question of whether race will trump gender as America looks toward election 2008.

I had irritably avoided columnizing on these crucial topics (though I have been quoted by others) for several, somewhat unorthodox, reasons. First, because the Clinton-Obama stand-off has been more than well-covered — and in an overly simplistic, insubstantial, annoyingly celebritized way. (Horrors, Obama smokes! But isn’t he hot in his swim trunks?) I was waiting for the discussion to get serious and, at last, it has. Finally, we’re asking the tough questions; instead of just crowing that he’s raised $20 million, we’re starting to wonder where it came from and what will be asked for in return for that much sugar. Why is the supposedly eco-friendly New Age senator supporting coal, however liquefied, as a way to wean ourselves off foreign oil? Wouldn’t be his home state’s powerful coal lobby, would it? And then there’s his support for ethanol, which, strangely enough, comes mainly from corn-rich Iowa — site of the first presidential caucus, if I’m not mistaken. All much more important than why he doesn’t wear a tie

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