After nearly two years of ceaseless campaigning, the 2008 presidential election is upon us. In 12 days, Americans will choose their new president from two worthy candidates -- Sen. Barack Obama, the young leader from Illinois who has shown the ability to unite and inspire us, and Sen. John McCain, who, in Obama's own words, "has served his country with dedication, honor and distinction."
It has been a tough campaign, especially in recent weeks. McCain, through his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, has leveled accusations at Obama that he associates with terrorists. Obama continues, as he has throughout his campaign, to portray McCain as George Bush incarnate.
Will the negative attacks, which studies have shown to be effective in elections past, work on Americans who are preoccupied with the economy? We'll know the answer to that on Nov. 5, the day after the election, when most of us -- regardless of political stripe -- will likely just be glad it's all over.
Last week, a rare moment of levity was injected into the presidential campaign that shed some light on who the two candidates are as human beings. McCain and Obama were the featured speakers at the 63rd annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, an event that traditionally encourages the liberal use of light-hearted and self-effacing humor. (Smith, who died in 1944, was elected governor of New York four times and was the first Roman Catholic and Irish-American to run for president as a major party candidate. He lost to Herbert Hoover.)
Obama shared with the audience, which included members of the media, political dignitaries and Sen. Hillary Clinton, that his middle name is actually "Steve." His real middle name, Hussein, was given to him by "someone who obviously didn't think I would ever run for president," he said.
McCain joked at the dinner that Obama didn't mind being called "that one" during the second presidential debate.
"He doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me -- George Bush," he said.
At the end of his speech, McCain turned serious.
"There was a time when the mere invitation of an African American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today, it's a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time -- and good riddance. I can't wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well."
The two laughed at each other's jokes during the dinner and, at its conclusion, they shook hands.
On Nov. 5, hopefully, we can all do the same -- shake hands and move on. After all, there are serious problems facing our country and meeting them effectively will require all of us working together.
In the meantime, if you're suffering from election fatigue, you can get it all over with by voting early. Voting booths are set up and ready to go at Kenai City Hall and the Borough Building in Soldotna, where early voting began Monday and will continue through Nov. 3. Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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