Barack Obama, Unplugged

If three years ago, someone had told you that an Illinois state legislator named Barack Hussein Obama, was thinking about running for president, you might have thought he was, well, unhinged.

The Democratic Illinois senator announced Tuesday that he had established an exploratory committee for a presidential run, but said as recently as a year ago he might understand any skepticism.

"I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago," he said in a video statement released on his Web site Tuesday.

Obama's meteoric rise shows how much can happen in the world of politics in a short period of time: Nasty politics can get even nastier, a president's popularity can plummet, and an already-brutal war can devolve into what many see as a catastrophic civil war.

And so a once-obscure state legislator turned media phenom can sense a moment, as did Obama, a liberal Democrat with charm, charisma, a compelling personal story -- and very little experience.

"Today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way," Obama told supporters in his video message.

"Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions," he said.

Experience as a Detriment?

Not only did the man who is only two years into his first term in the U.S. Senate target all those politicians whose experience outmatches his, he also seemed to say that their experience may be part of the problem.

After all, as Obama told "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran just a few months ago, former Defense Secretary "Donald Rumsfeld has one of the best resumes in Washington. And yet I would also argue that one of the consequences of bad judgment on his part is some of the problems that we've seen in Iraq," he said at the time.

That was also the message Tuesday, if you read between the lines.

"We're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged," Obama said, choosing to emphasize his view that the decision to go to war was a grievous error.

Obama May Not Have Same Iraq Baggage

Of course in 2002, supporters of the war included all his major rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, John Kerry and Chris Dodd.

Where was Obama in 2002? Rallying against the war in Chicago, where he stated his anti-war credentials. "I don't oppose war in all circumstances. … What I do oppose is a dumb war," he said then.

For fellow Chicago Democrat Bill Daley, former secretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, that's a pretty compelling argument.

"What he feared the war was going to bring to the world … basically has been proven true," Daley told ABC News Chicago affiliate WLS, referring to a lengthy statement Obama wrote at the time.

In that statement he outlined what he predicted would be the disastrous results of military intervention in Iraq.

"It's pretty amazing," Daley said. "And people talk about experience. He had less experience then than he has now, but he sure seemed to have a lot of vision and understanding of the world at that time."

Former U.S. Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., said Obama was perfectly positioned for 2008 to run as an anti-inside the Beltway politician.

"He is the opposite of the Washington candidates and he is coming off that way. He projects that way. That's a huge asset today," Coelho told ABC News.

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