Several years ago, I wrote and directed a film called The Contender in which Jeff Bridges played a president who nominates a female senator, played by Joan Allen, to be his vice president. In 2005, I created the TV series Commander-in-Chief in which Geena Davis played Mackenzie Allen, America's first female president. In both cases, the conservative press descended upon me like I was some sort of typhoid-riddled Beelzebub and, of the latter, I was accused of making nothing more than a commercial for Hillary Clinton.
I have to admit that all of us creatively involved with Commander absolutely intended to put the term "Madam President" into the zeitgeist. I can't deny it. Indeed, if Hillary somehow gets the nomination, I'll be out there waving a flag for her like I was in the cast of Les Miserables. I respect her, think her wildly qualified, and wise.
But until that time, I'm rooting for Barack Obama.
The policy differences between the two are so slight that you have to look elsewhere to determine where to cast your support. There is the issue of leadership skills. I give that to Obama. There is the issue of electability. Again, Obama. But for me there is something even larger to consider...
Right now, at this point in history, it is more important to have our first black president than our first woman president (although I find that vital, as well).
There have been many nations that have had female leaders. But there are very few, if any, that have elected a member of their ethnic minority to lead them (Botha doesn't count). Were we to put Hillary in office, the world would shrug their shoulders and say "finally." Put in Obama, and we lead by example.
We are viewed by the world as a quasi-racist state in which we allow natural disasters to obliterate our minority community, in which our penal system is designed to treat blacks unfairly, and in which we let the medical and educational systems in our ghettos fester to the level of some third world countries.
The election of Obama will say as much about the American people as it does about Obama himself -- that our Declaration of Independence means what it says in its opening lines, that being the world's greatest nation means that we offer the world's greatest opportunities. It is no shock that, with the exception of Great Britain, polls in every European nation favor Obama over Clinton.
And don't tell me that what the world thinks doesn't matter. Because how the dollar performs overseas matters. Our ability to form military alliances matters. How we team up economically and scientifically with China matters.
While they share similar governing philosophies, the fact that Obama is black and Clinton is a woman does affect how they prioritize their policies. Simply put, the issues that afflict blacks (some of which I mentioned three 'graphs up) are in more urgent need of our attention than those (very real) issues that matter to women. If you doubt that, then you need only look at how the vast majority of black women, their hearts split in two, have voted: They feel that Obama is the person to solve their immediate needs.
All this having been said, I should end with three disclaimers. One, Obama was one year ahead of me at Punahou High School in Hawaii. Two, my brother's name is Barak (sic). And three, when I met Obama at a fundraiser not long ago, he shook my hand and whispered to me, "Jeff Bridges was the best movie president ever." He had my vote then.