This campaigning stuff is really hard. You just can’t be too careful about the way you express yourself. You can’t bore people to death by dwelling over much on the details of whatever program you might wish to install if elected president. However, if you are too vague opponents will describe you as lacking substance. And then there is the unintentional gaff spoken in haste which gets taken the wrong way and spun into a political riff for all eternity.

For example, Michelle Obama commented the other day that ‘for the first time in her adult life she was proud of her country’, and she added, ‘it wasn’t only because her husband was running for president’. Surely she seemed to be referencing the political fact that Barack, a black man, is a viable candidate in a country that hasn’t always embraced people of color – – not that she isn’t proud of her country in a more general sense.

But quick as a wink, there was Cindy McCain standing beside her husband avowing her love of country, the Senator following up with a passionate, or as passionate as he gets, statement about how not a day passes that he isn’t proud of his country and proud to serve the people of this land. As he addressed supporters after his big win in Wisconsin, he hit what will undoubtedly be one of his ongoing themes – – that he hopes voters will not be deceived by flowery speeches but will rely instead on the voice of experience, his of course, not Hillary’s. McCain has a most unfortunate verbal delivery and manner at the podium, and it doesn’t help that his crowds are far more decorous and less enthusiastic than those that cheer Obama’s every appearance.

Our system has given voters an opportunity to transcend gender and race in choosing the next president; it is a proud moment in our historical narrative that this is so. There are efforts afoot to paint Democrats once again as soft on terrorism and national security. But those constant reminders from his supporters that McCain is a “true American hero” don’t make the case that his military service entitles him to be the next occupant of the oval office. In the previous campaign cycle John Kerry was also a war hero, but Republican surrogates did their best to trash his reputation and call into question his patriotism with nary a qualm.

And lest we forget there is experience aplenty in the current administration, if not on the part of Bush himself, in the members of his cabinet and staff. The trouble is experience isn’t the only thing that counts. That fact has certainly played out in the disastrous war in Iraq and the failure by most White House movers and shakers to see beyond their neat shiny desk tops and anticipate the consequences of their policy decisions. As has been noted, experience without judgment and wisdom is just hanging out passing the time until something happens. Unfortunately for the country this hasn’t been a winning strategy.

Indeed critics of Obama cum wordsmith haven’t mastered the art of reaching voters with an inspiring message of their own. The public quickly tires of stilted speech writers’ verbiage and listens more attentively to inspirational words of hope and encouragement. There’s an enormous difference between a carefully-crafted message and an artificial instrument filled with patriotic platitudes. Hopefully we’ve grown up at last.