After a titanic struggle, the young pretender had seen off the hot favourite. Now only destiny and history awaited.
The crucible of battle beckoned – a chance to banish the incumbent powers through destroying the old master.
And no, I’m not talking about the US Open tennis, even if for just for one moment in the second set it looked like Andy Murray might almost have the game to beat Roger Federer, just as he had swept away Rafael Nadal.
It was the American party conventions and the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain which intrigued. After glowing coverage of the Democratic bash in Denver, the Republican affair attracted little comment here initially.
Flicking the channels for a glimpse of Flushing Meadows last week, I came across a speech by Fred Thompson. The Senator’s deadpan style might almost have been compared by The Guardian to the dullest and most plodding rhetoric offered by our own Gordon Brown, but Thompson gave it a passable attempt.
The speech set out John McCain’s credentials, recalling his suffering and extraordinary courage during the Vietnam war. McCain was a principled and dignified statesman, he said, willing to stand up for what was right, and to fight the establishment machine. Willing to take risks in support of his beliefs.
I might not agree with McCain, I thought, but America does have a proper choice, this time.
A Republican leader able to summon up another kind of change, offering measured wisdom and long experience as practical alternatives to Obama’s vision and idealism.
Two strong candidates – and each of them presenting a pathway into the future.
The case for McCain was made, and Thompson should have stopped there.
Sadly he didn’t. What America doesn’t need, Thompson continued (and forgive me if I paraphrase) is a leader who is popular in Europe. What America doesn’t need is a President who apologises for the damage of these past eight years. Not when our enemies are all around us, pressing fast at the gates of republic.
Well, excuse the world for disagreeing, Senator, but that’s exactly what America does need. To rejuvenate her strongest alliances, to step back from confrontation and isolationism, and to re-engage with the world. To rediscover her friends and to create no more enemies.
How could a tortured prisoner of war like McCain not regret Guantanamo? It beats me, as the inmates of Abu Ghraib and Camp Delta might also have said.
But as instructive as it was, Thompson’s speech is a memory now. An unpleasant ripple, long forgotten in the choppy wake of Sarah Palin. A woman, no less.
It’s well past high time to shatter the glass ceiling. Despite so much progress, prejudice remains ingrained and pervasive, all around us.
Just this week, in telling us that Andy Murray could be the first British winner of a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry in 1936, had our own British media forgotten how Sue Barker took the French Open four decades later, or that Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977? It seems that they had.
So yes, let’s see a woman into the White House, and soon. But surely, it’s insulting the intelligence of women to assume that any woman is the right woman. Even if she’s feisty. Because behind the undoubted charisma and the hockey-mom branding, it doesn’t look that good beneath.
Palin is an evolution denier. A climate change denier. An opponent of AIDS education in schools. A woman who is so in tune with her environment that she lists shooting wild animals as one of her favourite pursuits.
McCain isn’t a healthy man. He’s run a brave race to get this far, but he looks exhausted and lacklustre in the spotlight now, relying on negativity and wild distortions of policy to back his campaign case.
And what of his judgment, and his trumpeted triumph over the party machine? Because measured risk-taking is one thing, but in propelling a trigger-happy Sarah Palin to within one ageing heartbeat from the Presidency, the Republican party seems happy to risk the world far more than this election.
The news from America last night wasn’t good. The brave young pretender was finally foiled by the sheer brilliance of the old campaigner. Andrew Murray will have to wait for another day, and he’ll need to find another level before he can challenge a redeemed Roger Federer. But that day will surely come.
And far beyond Flushing Meadows, will Obama find the poise and the power to dispatch McCain and his gun-toting firebrand of a sidekick, all across America?
It’s hard to predict the future, in politics and sport. But a smile at the net isn’t enough, John and Sarah. Because the ball has gone past you. And running in reverse won’t help hit it back.
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