The state of the union and Obama’s moment to shine

It is Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) moment and here is how he can make the most of it:

Lead a national mobilization and call to action for an American commitment to our troops and vets that surpasses anything done in America since the Second World War.

By brilliance or fate, the most important speech of the campaign was delivered by Obama at the most important moment of the campaign, the Iowa Democratic dinner.

What was powerful about the speech was that Obama tapped into the momentous sentiments defining the state of the union in 2007.

Americans are repulsed by both parties in Washington and there is a deep and powerful yearning for a politics that treats Americanism as a statement of principle and not a war of polarization.

Americans are repulsed by the choice between a corrupted, fear-driven and warmongering party of what used to be conservatism versus an incoherent, fearful and careerist party of what used to be progressivism.

The Democrats who will decide the nomination believe the great mandate of 2006 was stolen by a president who disrespected it and Democrats who lacked the courage to fight for it.

There is no need to repeat the litany of cave-ins except to state the truth that Democrats across America are appalled by them, and the truth that Obama arrives as the messenger and agent of the outrage and hope that defines the state of the union.

To be the true heir to Kennedy and Roosevelt, Obama must do what they did: touch the heartland of America that seeks authenticity, integrity, courage and good will in our national life.

Obama is not alone.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) could exploit the polarizing old politics to tear Obama down, which would only align her with the forces that repulse the nation. Or she could rise to  the occasion and claim the mantle of Roosevelt and Kennedy for herself with acts of fearless conviction that her strongest believers hope for.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the underestimated, larger-than-life Republican who could return to his ennobling campaign of 2000, leading his party by rising above it, remembering  that Theodore Roosevelt, not Karl Rove, embodies the true character of Republicanism.

Imagine if Obama went to veterans in New Hampshire and South Carolina and said we are not a slacker generation that permits troops to die preventable deaths while others return home to $650 billion of unmet needs, according to leading experts.

Imagine if Obama asks Americans to buy a soldier bond, or pay a soldier surtax, to give troops and vets everything they have earned through their service.

Imagine if Obama asked leading Democratic financiers such as Warren Buffet and Robert Rubin to write a plan and went to the movie stars and studio heads, the record labels and performing artists, the great authors and publishing houses, the investment bankers and venture capitalists and everyone from Main Street to Wall Street and houses of worship of every faith, to join together in a national communion of honor and patriotism.

Imagine if Obama, Clinton, McCain or another candidate promised that after winning the election he or she would stand with leaders of our veterans groups and the clergy of our faiths and say that never in America should even one veteran freeze to death because of $100 oil, starve to death without a loaf of bread, or suffer indignity or neglect, in a great nation of good people ready to offer a salute to their service and a hand to give them hope.

Imagine if Barack Obama would announce that he will donate the first evening of the Democratic Convention itself to a great tribute to the last survivors of the greatest generation, and use that evening to give veterans groups a national forum to seek volunteers from every corner of America.

The state of our union is great, and that very greatness makes our politics appear so small, sectarian and sad. We are a nation of endless opportunity, limitless optimism and indescribable hope and good will.

Like every American who has answered the call to service in uniform, we await a leader who will issue a call to service in our homes, families and communities.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net and read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog.