Obama: 'I Can Only Lead With You'

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Tuesday was the Washington meeting of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the Democratic presidential candidates were eager to line up to court votes and financial support. But the one candidate these folks haven't heard much from before was Barack Obama, and he came–after his campaign showed a short movie first on his candidacy. Once up on the stage, Obama was less a rock star than a rote candidate, delivering much of his stump speech to a crowd eager to listen.

"We all have a stake in each other," he said, later decrying the "failure of leadership" and the "smallness of our politics."

What was most interesting about Obama was the delivery: When he was talking about foreign policy, about his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, he was reading from a text. He's new at this foreign-policy thing, and it clearly is not a natural topic for him yet.

"The president is insistent on keeping U.S. troops in the crossfire of a civil war," he said, arguing that it doesn't make sense.

Yet when Obama was talking about this country, and the need for change, it came from his heart–no text, just belief.

"I can't lead by myself," he said. "I can only lead with you."

One more point that we will be hearing again and again, I predict: Obama's notion that someone who looks like him–with a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas–can convince the rest of the world that America wants to engage. Oh, and as for the Middle East, Obama told the group that "Mideast policy is about more than arms sales."

Then, after telling them that he's in the race to "transform the country," he left, back to the Senate, for a vote.