There were a few other important endorsements today besides the stunning backing of John McCain by Mexican-American soap opera star Katie Barberi. This one in particular is getting most of the attention, although frankly it's a little late to hand Colin Powell the Profiles in Courage Medal for endorsing a Democrat, not when he passed up a chance to save thousands of lives by going public with his doubts about the war in Iraq instead of advocating for it by spinning tales to the United Nations.

Locally, Michael Smerconish travels in a less important orbit than Colin Powell, but I do think his official endorsement today of Barack Obama shows a certain kind of courage -- writing what he believes instead of what's best for his long-term career prospects.

As for the endorsement itself, it's not surprising. Smerconish has been telegraphing this for months, and while he is clearly conservative on many issues (including a stance on torture that I still find repulisive) he's also struck me as open-minded, as evidenced by his call for getting out of Iraq back in 2006. As for Obama, he seems attracted largely by something that's supposed to sway voters but rarely does, the actual issues -- especially the tough-guy stance on al-Qaeda in Pakistan where Smerconish finds himself much more in agreement with the Democrat than McCain's weak and confusing stance.

The Smerc, as his Big Media pal David Gregory calls him, writes today:

The candidates disagree as to where to prosecute the war against Islamic fundamentalists. Barack Obama is correct in saying the front line in that battle is not Iraq, it's the Afghan-Pakistan border. Osama bin Laden crossed that border from Tora Bora in December 2001, and we stopped pursuit. The Bush administration outsourced the hunt for bin Laden and instead invaded Iraq.
No one in Iraq caused the death of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Our invasion was based on a false predicate, so we have no business being there, regardless of whether the surge is working. Our focus must be the tribal-ruled FATA region in Pakistan. Only recently has our military engaged al-Qaeda there in operations that mirror those Obama was ridiculed for recommending in August 2007.
Last spring, Obama told me: "It's not that I was opposed to war [in Iraq]. It's that I felt we had a war that we had not finished." Even Sen. Joe Lieberman conceded to me last Friday that "the headquarters of our opposition, our enemies today" is the FATA.

I can't help but wonder how this will affect Smerconish in the bizarro-world of national punditry, just as he's become something of a rising figure on that warped stage. Cable TV shoutfests seem to demand round pegs for round holes, and Smerconish made himsel;f into a square peg. One reason that the Philly talker has been on Gregory's MSNBC show so often is that he was filling one of the "conservative seats," but now he's a conservative AND an Obama supporter, soooo...what's a producer to do?

Another national gig for Smerconish has been filling for Fox News Channel host and radio yakker Bill O'Reilly, but O'Reilly has been one of the more unhinged right-wing voices against Obama as the election draws near, so he can't be too amused by his frequent guest host and his at-least temporary left turn. Would O'Reilly ask an Obama supporter to fill in for him, especially if Obama is in the White House?

Stay tuned.

Or maybe not.