America once again is ready to talk sense and sacrifice
War hero versus Illinois intellectual.
No. Not John McCain, former Vietnam POW, versus Barack Obama.
I'm thinking 1952 -- the last presidential election with no president or vice president in the race.
Yes, it's been that long.
President Bush chose to keep Dick Cheney on the ticket in 2004, and Cheney apparently has no inclination to run in 2008, so there is no heir apparent on the GOP side.
That makes it a whole new ball game -- probably the first wide-open presidential race for most Americans.
That is exciting for people of any political stripe.
The topsy-turvy results of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary give us only a tantalizing glimpse at the weeks ahead.
Is history any help?
In 1952, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who led Allied forces to victory in World War II, ran as a Republican against Adlai Stevenson, Democratic governor of Illinois, the favorite of President Harry Truman.
Eisenhower won, of course, in '52 and again against Stevenson in 1956.
Stevenson, later United Nations ambassador under President John Kennedy, had an intellectual air similar to that of Obama, who seems all too willing to expend 10 minutes to answer a question at the town meeting.
Obama, a 1979 graduate of Punahou School in Hawaii, gained national attention with his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, at the invitation of the nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who endorsed him last week. Obama was captivating with his vision of a united America.
Inspiring, as well, was Stevenson in 1952. His words, in Chicago that year:
"When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility in an hour of history haunted with those gaunt, grim specters of strife, dissension, and materialism at home and ruthless, inscrutable, and hostile power abroad. The ordeal of the 20th century, the bloodiest, most turbulent era of the whole Christian age, is far from over. Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose may be our lot for years to come. Let's face it. Let's talk sense to the American people. Let's tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions."
Those words apply to the 21st century, too.
Jim Borg is a Star-Bulletin assistant city editor.
My Turn is a periodic column written by Star-Bulletin staff members expressing their personal views.