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Obama on Rosh Hashanah and ‘Serious Leadership’

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DETROIT, Mich — Speaking at a small fund-raiser at the Detroit Public Library on Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama reflected on the coming Jewish New Year.

After wishing the crowd of about 100 supporters a happy Rosh Hashanah, Obama said he appreciates how the holiday provides an opportunity for people to asses their lives. “Are we right with each other and are we right with God?” he asked, according to the pool report. Obama also recounted how he addressed a group of 900 American rabbis in a conference call this month.

Turning to the campaign’s quotidian drama, Obama told donors, who paid $2,500 to attend the initimate gathering, that an election full of “twists and turns” was finally bearing down on serious challenges facing the country:

One of the wonderful things about having such an extraordinary election process is that I’ve seen all the cycles of ups and downs, twists and turns… You couldn’t have written a novel with all the crazy stuff that has happened in this election. It seemed like an eternity – three or four weeks ago – when people were calling me and fussing, “We’re talking about lipstick and pigs. What’s happening? This is terrible.”

I said, “My suspicion is that it’s going to turn once again… No matter how many times you shuffle the deck, what you keep on coming up with the fact that this is a serious time. It requires serious leadership.” (emphasis added)

Then Obama walked out to address a crowd of 28,000 people waiting in a plaza between the library and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

While Obama’s aides have militantly rebuffed the idea that his candidacy benefits from the financial crisis — aiming to avoid accussations of politicization — the frame of a “serious time” anchors the Democratic nominee’s new stump speech.

Meanwhile, since the conventions, Sen. John McCain has excelled, if at all, via The Politics of Shiny Objects. He serves up compelling events that did not actually occur — from the lipstick lie to the “suspended” campaign — to distract many reporters, and some voters, from news that might hurt McCain, (like declining polls, economic news and revelations about the lobbyists running his campaign).

Lipstick drama is clearly harder to sell as banks crumble, and voters seem to have welcomed Obama’s “serious” approach to the economic crisis.

At the risk of overinterpreting his remarks today, it seems that Obama thinks “serious leadership” remains his best theme. It certainly meets the moment.

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