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Sen. Barack Obama delivers a speech in Chicago on June 15.
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Sound Off: Obama talks Dads
In the first real weekend of head to head campaigning between the Democratic and Republican presidential contenders, Barack Obama used the occasion of Father's Day to attack absentee fathers , while John McCain attacked Obama on the issue of the war in Iraq.
"We know that more than half of all black children live in single parent households," Obama said at a church on Chicago's South Side. "Any fool can have a child; that doesn't make you a father. It's the courage to raise the child that makes you a father."
Obama's call for responsibility within the African-American community is one that other black politicians have made before, says John Harris of Politico.com. But he says that effective criticism of the black community has special resonance among white voters. "It's not simply a message of black grievance, because lots of whites find that unsettling," he says. "They don't want a radical African-American politician. They want somebody who they believe shares their essential middle-class values."
Additionally, Harris says that it's Obama's personal stories, even his personal shortcomings, that are likely to help him. "Let's face it," he says, "his personal biography is his overwhelming asset. It's why people are drawn to him — it's obviously not his long legislative record, it's not his record as an executive; he doesn't have either of those. He'd be crazy not to talk about it and invoke it and use his private story to talk about his public values."
Meanwhile, over the weekend, John McCain fired salvos over the war in Iraq at Barack Obama. "It's astonishing to me," said McCain, "that Senator Obama still does not recognize that we have had significant success as a result of this change in strategy that he said was doomed to fail."
Despite overwhelming public opinion against the war in Iraq, says Harris, McCain is trying to turn his vocal support of the war into a political strength. Harris says he's taking the advice of some conservative columnists, who advise that McCain should put Obama on the defensive about the war by "saying Obama stands for surrender, and he [McCain] stands for eventual victory."
One aspect of the weekend's political wrangling was definitely different: the absence of Tim Russert, who died on Friday, to sort it all out on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. Harris says that although Meet the Press will clearly continue, NBC would be foolish to try to find someone to be the "new" Russert. "It's going to continue in quite a different form," Harris said. "Anybody would be foolish to try to replicate Russert's formula. They need to create a new one."