Forget The To Do List, Here's A "To Don't" List For Obama

DENVER (AP) -- There's no shortage of items on Barack Obama's to-do list for the fall campaign. How about a to-don't list? Five AP reporters offer suggestions.



No matter what, Barack Obama should never lose sight of the color gray.

It's a truism that political discourse today is marked by polarization, and perhaps it always has been. But within memory was a time when people talked to each other. Henry Clay may have been known as "The Great Compromiser" back in the mid-1800s, but Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan didn't do too bad a job of it in the mid-1980s.

Now, though, we shout at each other. We dig in and hold our positions like doughboys in the trenches, and the sense of what the other guy has to say is lost, denounced or ridiculed. Both sides of the aisle are to blame for this, as are those of us who worship the sultans of shout radio.

But though it was founded in revolutionary bloodshed, America, at its heart, has always proven that it functions best as a centrist nation. That means not black or white - in either their racial or metaphoric contexts - but glorious gray with all its possibilities.

Both sides have good and useful things to say if they don't get shouted down. Black and white may be our vernacular, but gray reveals our wisdom. To win, and to govern, Barack Obama would do well to remember that.

-By Ted Anthony



No matter what, Barack Obama should not grow facial hair.

He'd look cool with a tight goatee, or maybe a sharp full-face beard. (I wouldn't go mustache.) It'd help him look older, which would battle that whole inexperience thing people keep talking about.

I don't think he's going to go there, however.

Beards can lead to ticklish kisses, so his wife and daughters might have something to say about it. There's also the little fact that no man has been elected president with any kind of facial hair since William Howard Taft.

And, more importantly, white supporters might not like it. He wouldn't look "safe" anymore. It's a pet peeve of mine: Black men who have to appeal to white audiences never have facial hair, I suspect, because they need to look "safe." Look at all the clean-shaven black male television anchors on national shows. Look at black men who star in movies not directly marketed for black audiences. Not a whisker in sight. (I'm looking at you, Denzel. You wear a goatee in "Training Day" when you're the bad guy, but you're clean shaven in "The Pelican Brief" when Julia Roberts is prancing around. )

Given the country's racial past, believe me, Obama doesn't need to give people any reason - however stupid - to vote against him, so keep those razors handy.

-By Jesse Holland



No matter what, Barack Obama should not confuse the campaign trail with a college classroom. He shouldn't agonize, Hamlet-like, over every thorny issue. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004, and it often shows.

His answers can be, well, professorial, textured.

For instance, when asked about the existence of evil, Obama discoursed over how evil exists in the world in many forms. On city streets. In homes when children are abused. Evil that is sometimes even perpetrated in the name of good.

Rival John McCain: The only thing to do with evil is "defeat it."

McCain's response, of course, was an oversimplification, something Republicans have been good at over the years. Obama's drawn-out, multi-faceted answers may reveal his intelligence and thoughtfulness. But too many shades of gray can make a listener's eyes glaze over.

Same goes with plans. Obama's energy and economic plans have so many moving parts, they're hard to explain in a few short sentences.

With economic anxiety gripping the nation, Obama needs to frame his message and what he stands for concisely. And keep repeating it.

-By Tom Raum



No matter what, Barack Obama should not forget to reach out to whites and old people.

Blacks and young people helped get him where he is.

He'll need whites and old people to get him where he wants to go.

Obama's groundbreaking campaign is built on a giant assumption that two groups of historically lax voters - blacks and young people - will turn out for him in droves on Election Day and deliver longtime GOP bastions like Georgia and North Carolina.

Maybe that untested theory will be proven true for a 47-year-old who could be the country's first black president.

Then again, maybe not.

Either way, Obama would ignore whites and senior citizens at his own peril.

They are among the nation's most reliable voters, and, as such, wield incredible power.

They'll be a sure thing on Nov. 4 - either for Obama or the other guy.

-By Liz Sidoti



No matter what, Barack Obama should not go on defense.

Defense wins championships - but only in football. In politics, if you're explaining, you're losing.

Republicans are masters of keeping opponents off balance. And lots of Democrats are worried that Obama and their party are not counter-punching hard enough.

"You've got to put (John) McCain on defense," counsels Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "Instead of us being on defense on social wedge issues, we've got to put him on defense about people's checkbooks."

One current example of playing defense is the Obama campaign's legal bid to keep third-party ads linking Obama with 1960s radical William Ayers off the air. It's probably a futile effort anyway, but the campaign's response only highlights the issue more.

It's okay for surrogates like running mate Joe Biden to attack, but it's also important to remember that the most important player on offense is the quarterback - or, in politics, the candidate.


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