20 March 2008

On the bandwagon

OK, everybody else is doing it, so I might as well indicate my awe at Obama's reframing of the racial question with the greatest American political speech of the past thirty years, by providing a link to what was this morning the most-viewed item over at YouTube:

I won't gush too much over the speech itself. Enough has been said elsewhere, and it's inarguably a great speech delivered by a great orator, whether you agree with his politics or not. But Lars, a previously unknown-to-me diarist over at DKos pointed out in whimsical fashion what may be the most remarkable aspect of this speech:

He Wrote It Himself.

I spent the last five hours in my woodshop with a lathe and sandpaper and an awl, carving this beautiful oak chair that I now present to you.

I did it because you will need something to sit down on when the full measure of what Ambinder wrote crashes upon you like all the heavens and the stars above.

Let me repeat it.

Because it bears repeating.

That speech today? The one that has pundits--from the liberal David Corn at The Nation ("This is as sophisticated a discussion of race as any American politician has sought to present to the public") to the conservative Charles Murray, of National Review Online ("it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols."), and those in between--noting the brilliance, sophistication, sincerity and candor of the words spoken by Obama? That speech?

He wrote it himself.

Once more, with feeling:

He wrote it. Himself.

Barack Obama did. He wrote it.

Now, if you are like me, and I pray for your soul you are not, you had the normal reaction to finding out this piece of information. You rushed right to the Library of Congress to determine exactly the last time that a President or a presidential candidate wrote a major speech alone, by himself or herself.

And, of course, what you discover is that other than the speeches Obama has written for himself, the last time a major speech was written without the aid of a speechwriter by a president or presidential candidate was Nixon's "Great Silent Majority" speech delivered on October 13, 1969.

Now that was a good speech. Evil, no doubt, to its very core, and designed to proliferate the feelings that allowed the great Southern Strategy success, but a good speech nevertheless.

In other words, not in my lifetime. And I am oldish. I have kids and wear dark socks with slippers and complain about the quality of my lawn and get hungover way too easily. But in the last 37 years there hasn't been a speech like this written by the man himself. Not like this.

Here is a chair. Regardless of who you support, or what you think of Obama, I want you to sit here, right here on this chair and consider something wonderful. To wit:

It is possible that we will have a President who not only will speak in full, complete sentences, but who will do so in a manner that is eloquent, and who will also be articulate and eloquent in delivering words he is intelligent enough to know, understand, and use in a speech he is capable of writing himself.

This chair, it is oak.

Sit and think about that.

After seven years of the worst crumble-bumblings of the nattering nabob from Crawford, think about that.

He wrote that speech. He wrote it. He, himself.



  1. Josh pointed me to Huckabee's praise for the speech, and his acknowledgment that bitter resentment from those who grew up in segregation is to be expected. It echoed Obama's acknowledgment that resentment from white who had no part in the discriminatory practices like Jim Crowe was natural.

    We've got to do something with this.

    There is something else universal in this, recognizing that villified churches are not as evil as non-attendees think they are. Jerry Fawell said stuff other than feminists cause September 11 and Jeremiah Wright said stuff other than God Damn America. And the people who were inspired by them, were not necessarily inspired by those things. They may have been inspired by something else, they have been seeking, they may found something better than that.

    We have a chance for big ideas. We have a chance.

  2. Yes, this is a truly great speech. :)

  3. As an antidote to the Kool-Aid, I recommend this piece by Thomas Sowell, a man not unfamiliar with the plight of African-Americans. Here’s the money quote:

    “Someone once said that a con man's job is not to convince skeptics but to enable people to continue to believe what they already want to believe.”

    By this standard, the speech was indeed “great.”

  4. Catron,

    What part of the speech do you think everyone already believed? I think cynicism, we can never get any better, and racism is only the other guys problem is what people already believe. I don't see how you can read or hear this speech and say this is telling people what they want to believe.

  5. It's crazy that this guy might actually be /smart/. Well-spoken. Holy crap.

    "But I wouldn't want to have a beer with him!"
    Why? Because he's not as good as Dubya?

  6. I don't see how you can read or hear this speech and say this is telling people what they want to believe.

    Sowell's point is that Obama has "enabled" you to believe, and your hopelessly credulous view of the speech suggests that he is right.

    For anyone not drunk on the Kool-Aid, Obama's speech was an exercise in dissimulation.

  7. I think Catron has a point of a sort (never say I don't say anything nice about you).

    Obama is telling us, in some part, what we want to believe. I don't agree that it's a con -- what it is, is affirmation. Obama is appealing to the "better angels of out nature," by telling us that we can rise above the old anger and resentments borne out of the racial struggles. We badly want and need to believe this truth, and the cynics and racemongers try at every turn to piss on that hope.

    Yes, it's optimistic, but not disingenuous at all.

    The other thing about this speech, though, was that he did not shy away from the uncomfortable truths, and he acknowledged them as valid. That candor and directness is rare in a modern politician and unheard of on this topic. That he took it on at all, let alonse successfully, speaks volumes of his skill as a communicator and leader.

    No, one speech won't make ponies and rainbows fly out of my ass. But it's a nice preview of what the next four years may hold for America.

    Mmmmm... I love the taste of Kool-aid in the morning.

  8. He didn't rise above making it political rationalizing the sort of hatred harbored by JW as somehow the result of Reagan politics

  9. "Now, if you are like me, and I pray for your soul you are not" Yes, many Barack followers share this opinion, quite the opposite of your hero but much like those he hires.
    I heard, in his so called great speech, repetitions of parts of several other speeches he has given. The grandmother, the man who did it for Ashley, other phrases taken verbatim from other speeches. He is a great speechifier and he would make a great Ambassador of Diversity (apparently many have never heard or experienced the concept)but I really don't need him as my leader.

  10. I can't imagine how wonderful it would be to have someone who addressed real problems head on like Obama. Someone who not only told us what we wanted to hear but what we needed to hear. This is a marvelous call to action and it doesn't suprise me that many people want to nit pick instead of take it to heart.

    Shying away from challenges or villifying the other side is so much easier. The message from Huckabee makes me happy because it tells me there is a growing number of people on both sides of the political divide who are ready to work.

  11. I hope I can ask a question without this getting ugly. If you can't answer nicely, please refrain from replying.

    If I had to vote today, I would vote for Obama.

    However, I am seeking reassurance about this particular issue.
    I am a little worried that he would appoint this reverend to his campaign staff? I can agree and even respect him for not abandoning the man, but to put him in so prominent a position in the campaign-- either political necessity with regard to the African American community or really bad judgement. I dearly hope it is not the latter.

    Thanks for any thoughts.

  12. Anon 6:04,

    I think there's zero chance Obama would give Wright a position in his administration.

    First of all, the political fallout would be tremendous -- just insane. It would totally distract from Obama's agenda and not be helpful to him politically.

    Second, Wright is, as they say, "radioactive." Obama wants nothing more than to distance himself from him and move on. That ha managed to do so without throwing Wright under a bus is classy.

    Third, Obama has run his whole campaign on a platform of unity and inclusiveness. To appoint someone divisive like Wright would be completely inconsistent with his stated philosophy. While there's an argument to be made that you just can't trust any politician, I haven't seen anything about Obama to make me think he's lying when he talks about the desire to bring all Americans together.

    So, if Wright troubles you, I can reassure you that the balance of the evidence suggests Obama will not make Wright -- or others like him -- key players in his administration.

  13. Oh, and just for the record, Wright was not ever officially on the campaign staff. He was loosely referred to as one of Obama's "Spiritual Advisors," but never held any real post in the campaign.

  14. I can not understand why he stayed in that church with his wife and children where all that divisive, hateful talk was spewed from the pulpit. I would be there once and I would never have my children growing up hearing that stuff.

    I would also be concerned who his advisers would be.

    Anyone can talk all they want and promise all kinds of things but when they get in the white house it's another matter.

    Obama is a powerful orator and gives better speeches than any of them...but WORDS come easy for some people. Action speaks louder than words. He stayed in that church TWENTY YEARS. You attend church to be inspired by the pastor. He evidently got TWENTY YEARS of inspiration/influence from pastor Wright. U.S. off KKK and GodD**m America? and other things. I understand he is close to him and so I cut him slack not wanting to break up the relationship but he should NEVER have stayed in that church because it appears he condones that stuff.

    First he lied and said he didn't know about it. C'mon...Obama is intelligent...he knew. Then he admitted he knew.

    And all the talk against white people. how does THAT heal the racial divide? I honestly don't understand how that kind of facilitates healing and unity among people.

    I never uttered a racial slur once in my ENTIRE life and I treat everyone the same...with respect and kindness. Now to find out that a pastor...yes man of God spews this hate against white people? Wow. We have taught our sons to care about people.

    I admit...I am mad, hurt, offended and afraid that people seriously believe this stuff.

    I in good conscience could NEVER cote for him because I do NOT trust him now. And for his wife ...who would be 1st lady...she said she has never been proud of our country until now?

    I had enjoyed listening to his speeches. I actually hadn't been very inspired with any of the candidates this year. 1st time that has ever happened to me. But now...I KNOW who I don't want.

    I apologize if I offended anyone. If someone can shed some light on this to help me see this differently and feel better about this then please do....seriously..please.

    And for people that comment about the republican politicians that have affiliated themselves with Fallwell, Hagee and parsley etc, it is NOT that same thing. While I do not agree with their misguided statements...we all know politicians side wind up to the preachers for the vote and it does not mean they believe the stuff and that happens on both sides. I am a Christian but I do not vote for a president because of him being friendly with a pastor.

    The difference here is Obama has had a TWENTY YEAR relationship with a man who talks against our country and white people.

    I can not imagine staying seated and being seen in a place that promoted that message unless I believed it. Otherwise it would be a major waste of time to be there.

    And again...I come back to ...just who would his advisers be?

    I love and respect our country and am grateful to live here. If it is so awful then why do so many try to come here to live? And I would never want to harm or see anyone harmed in anyway for any reason.

  15. Seaspray,

    Thanks for a honest and thoughtful comment.

    The thing is, if you go to YouTube and watch the entire sermon that Wright gave, you'll see that the context makes it less egregious. Yeah, the clips out of context sound pretty bad, but there's a lot more to the sermon, and a lot more to the man.

    For an example: "US of KKK" -- OK, not exactly polite talk, but from a fire & brimstone preacher no surprise that he goes for a turn of the phrase, and he's got a point. He grew up and became politically active in the sixties, back when the KKK was still torturing and murdering young black boys like Emmitt Till. It's not a joke to him, the KKK is not a long ago and forgotten bogeyman. If anybody has the authority to speak about the KKK, it's veterans of the civil rights struggles like Wright.

    So US of KKK? What do you think he meant by that? Probably that the US has a regrettable history of racism, and maybe one which is not entirely past. (I'm trying to remember -- I don't have a transcript in front of me) Thing is, he's got a point there, don't you think?

    And never once does he utter a racial slur of any kind. "KKK" is as close as it comes. Don't tar him as a racist -- demagogue, OK, that might be an accurate term, but the evidence does not support racist.

    Go listen to the whole thing, and listen with an open mind. Yeah, there's some nutty stuff in there about AIDS, and I don't agree with much of it. But you may find that there's not so much of the awful stuff as you have been lead to think from FOX news, and maybe just maybe some redeeming stuff, too.

    If nothing else, he's a hell of a speaker, too. Fun to listen to, even when he's getting nutty. Honestly, I find it mostly boring, because I'm not strongly religious.

    And again, with Michelle O, look at the actual quote. She did not say she was not proud of America, what she said was "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country," emphasis on "really." She did NOT say she had never been proud of America, she was using a superlative to emphasize that now she's REALLY proud of America.

    Don't trust the right wingers. They'll just lie to you again and again

  16. Never trust lying conservatives. go to the source material directly and judge for yourself. Here's some source material for Rev Wright. Listen and then render your judgment.

    "Audacity of Hope"
    Part One
    Part Two

    "The Message, The Messiah and The Manger"
    Part One

    "Jesus solving problems"

    Listen to these and reflect on the fact that sermons like these represented most of Obama's 20-year relationship with this man. He's not a bad man, by and large, and in the full context it's not so surprising that Obama stayed in his church so long.

  17. Thank you Shadowfax. I will come back to listen as soon as I can without interruption.

    if I honestly can get past this then I will let you know. i will also say something after the comment I put in Scalpel's blog. i am an honest and fair person.

    I happen to believe we need both wings to fly the eagle.

    But...still...that stuff should not be said. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and in this country we can express it. There are also other black people that were faced with those hate crimes and didn't become anti-American, etc.

    It's just that we are talking about the man who would be commander in chief to this nation and the most powerful man in the world. His wife, also not offended by that stuff would be 1st lady.

    I will listen though and I will let you know what I think.

  18. Calling it the US of KKK is really bad. We all know how evil and misguided the KKK was.


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