I compared candidate Barack Obama to Muhammad Ali months ago, just after his speech at the Democratic Convention in August, when he seemed to exhibit a steely eyed resolve in an address that laid off of the soaring rhetoric he was known for and got down to defining in meat and potatoes terms how he was going to battle John McCain and the Republican Party during the fall campaign. "No More Rope A Dope For Obama" was the title of that piece. He landed a few punches down the stretch, but for the most part, relied on some fancy footwork and a superior corner team to cruise to an undisputed victory.
From where we are now, with the president himself coming on TV tonight to let us know what is happening on his end, right there in the White House, the campaign was an amateur fight. This thing President Obama is up against now - an economy that is teetering on the brink of disaster, due in part to a financial sector that has run amok - is like Joe Frazier and George Foreman and Sonny Liston all rolled into one big, bad, rough and tumble opponent. One solid punch from this financial catastrophe could stagger the president badly enough to give his opponents the kind of opening that leads to a political knockout.
Slipping punches and dancing around the ring does not win heavyweight boxing titles, the same way dodging miscues and flying around the country doesn’t fix economic meltdowns.
President Obama has to define his space in the ring.
He has to hit back against his foes, whether they are financial executives squandering taxpayer dollars or a media intent on repurposing his message, with punches that pack some real power, jabbing his adversaries in the solar plexus hard enough to make them think twice about coming inside on him.
This is going to be a fight that goes the distance, an old school fifteen rounder that promises to leave both victor and vanquished exhausted by the final bell. Points won't win a fight like this. Technique won't allow either opponent to outclass the other. And there will be some cuts and bruises and swollen eyes along the way.
The people in the stands are going crazy, and the fight hasn't even started yet. The reporters are having a hard time keeping up with all the hoopla, especially since they are having to scratch through the choice phrases they had already picked out to tell the story of what is really happening in the ring in order to record the actual action on the canvas.
The weigh-in is tonight. It will be broadcast worldwide. The president will be smooth, as usual, and a little longwinded, as usual, but he will be standing on that podium at that lectern tonight with the tiniest bit of positive momentum at his back from the events of the last few days. Sometimes that's all a fighter needs to know before he gets in the ring - that he's got just a little edge on his opponent.
I'm putting my money on the welterweight from Illinois.