Commentary: Obama will need political courage

The election of Barack Obama marks a historic moment, one in which all Americans can take pride. It wasn’t a landslide victory, but it was decisive.

Now the question is how he will govern, and the portents are unclear. Obama ran a brilliant, well-organized campaign. But I’m having trouble reconciling the cool-headed, even-tempered, clear-thinking candidate we all watched with what’s known about his past associations.

I know. This discussion was deemed inadmissible during the campaign. It simply didn’t fit with the man we saw on stage, delivering the soaring rhetoric about bringing us all together.

I don’t believe that Obama is a dangerous radical in the mold of Bill Ayers, or an America-hater a la Jeremiah Wright. Yet he is closely linked to these and others, and he had the most liberal voting record of all in the Senate in 2007.

His record marks him as an ultra-liberal. His persona suggests something else, something still undefined.

That very vagueness is what allowed Obama to become the vessel of the hopes of so many. He is seen as transformational: He will carry the country to some realm where all our divisions will vanish; problems that have bedeviled us for years will suddenly find solutions.

It is a tremendous burden to carry.

Even now, he is leaving the world of soaring rhetoric and entering the world of hard choices. He will disappoint, as all presidents who have carried such burdens have disappointed.

We are still left wondering, of his connection with the Rev. Wright, why he didn’t leave that church.

To read the complete column, visit The Kansas City Star.