At one point, asked about his support for high-speed rail, Obama lapsed into what was almost a comedy routine. All he needed was a fake brick wall behind him and a two-drink minimum.
"If you think about the Midwest, think about right here, what we've got is all kind of towns that we could connect," Obama said. "All of these cities are, they basically take in the air about 45 minutes to an hour to fly."
"But by the time you get to the airport," Obama continued, "take off your shoes, get to the terminal, realize that your flight's been delayed two hours, go pay $10 for a cup of coffee, and a sandwich for another $10, come back, you get on the plane, you're sitting on the tarmac for another 25 minutes, you finally take off, you're circling above the city for another half hour, when you land they can't find your luggage, and then you get to where you're going -- by the time it's all done it's a five-hour trip! …So the time is right now for us to start thinking about high-speed rail as an alternative to air transportation, connecting all these cities and think about what a great project that would be in terms of rebuilding America."
What I really like is how well Obama articulates high speed rail as not just a neato piece of tech, not just a solution to our climate and energy crisis, but as something that just plain works, and can give workaday people a better way to travel. High speed rail saves time and money. It's a populist and smart way to push back against the Republican lie that oil drilling is going to help solve the crisis.
Obama is showing that he understands quite well Van Jones's argument that we must move from opposition to proposition. It is not enough to fight against the idiotic drilling policy - you must also propose a better solution. High speed rail is one of those better solutions.
Of course, it would be great to pin Obama down on whether he will fight for federal money for the California high speed rail project, and how much he'd budget for it. The US budget deficit may be as high as $500 billion next year, and while the traditional media gives Bush and the Republicans a pass on this, they won't do the same for Obama and the Democrats. We're going to have to continue to fight to bring money to California for HSR.
But no money is going to come at all unless we pass Prop 1(A?) this November.