I listened to Barack Obama’s speech on the radio live as he gave it. I was listening to Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC, and skipped going out for breakfast because he said Obama was going on “any minute” right near the beginning of the show. I liked the speech as I listened to it, generally. There were parts that struck me the wrong way, like the “only in America is my story even possible” part, and the reference to Geraldine Ferraro which to my ears sounded like a little jab at Clinton for not giving the speech he was giving. THere were parts I just thought were dumb politicking, like the whole mustard sandwich girl stuff at the end. But overall, I thought the attitude of saying, racial divides run much deeper than we normally admit, and simply casting out anyone who openly says the wrong thing will not actually solve anything, was brave. It may seem obvious enough, but it still seemed like an intelligent and nuanced approach.

On the other hand, after the speech, I was surprised both by the callers to the show who seemed to largely miss the point – one was upset he hadn’t distanced himself further from Wright, one thought it was weak because there was no policy initiative offered – and by so many columnists who seemed to think it was historic, Lincolnesque, comparable to MLK. To me, it had been a fair, thoughtful, reasonable response to a controversy, not momentous but clarifying matters and offering room for real interchange. But plenty of other presidents have offered speeches that are at least as good or better, so it seemed to be due to the personal nature of the story more than the topic itself that people were so impressed. Of course, being personal on the one hand meant that on the other, it wasn’t very clear about what the next move was supposed to be. Instead it was just a bit of, here’s where I’m coming from. I guess that is what resonates with some, and annoys other people.

For me, as the moment wears off, I have to wonder, what does it really mean to “discuss” an issue? Maybe the caller looking for policy change was on to something after all. And when I think about it, I’m prepared to be sympathetic to Obama and not really offended by the comments of the Reverend to start with – but how would I feel about “nuance” of this sort if a right wing candidate refused to distance himself from a pastor who had made racist (not “reverse racist”) or anti-semitic comments? Would I honestly believe they were trying to find a better way to heal, or would I cynically assume they were just trying to find a way to sneak their prejudice in? So perhaps it is not surprising that it does look as if that’s how a lot of Americans are interpreting this.

Which is too bad, as I said, since the speech itself was smart and honest. And the things Wright said to begin with by and large seem less ridiculous than quotes shrugged off from Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell (may he rest in dirt). Overall, at this point, I am just hoping the dems can manage not to self-destruct. It feels like there is way too much anti-Clinton from Obama people and anti-Obama from Clinton people, so that neither of them is going to win the nomination happily and with a real celebration and united party. Whoever loses will harbor some kind of resentment or blame, and make it harder for the other one.

6 Responses to “Obam-enon”

  1. Dennis Says:

    Great comments. I’ve had similar thoughts. In fact, I was just thinking, today, all these years later, Will Roger’s words still ring true, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a democrat.”

    Sadly, the very quality of supporting a friend who thinks differently is what gave me second thoughts about Obama when he didn’t show that same support for Stephanie Powers, whose thoughts, on the whole, I find quite interesting and intelligent. She was no small factor in my support for Obama. I felt, if she was giving close advice to him, it was impressive he knew enough to listen. I wrote this letter to his web site when I was feeling disappointed and even a bit ticked at him.

    “Everyone in the press and, of course, Obama’s advisers, feel that Stephanie Powers’ resignation should have been accepted. This is when a candidate could step outside of the crowd to show himself a great leader. Instead, Obama obsequiously accepted Powers’ resignation and now her name is being turned to mud, as he silently lets it happen.

    I’ve heard Powers interviewed, previously. She made Tucker Carlson appear a fool when he feebly attempted to take on her defense and promotion of Obama. She’s a great and very intelligent individual, of whom Obama hasn’t said a word, in defense, apparently, because he doesn’t wish to be too hard on poor Hillary, even as she compares him to Ken Starr.

    Also, it appears Obama is afraid to risk contradicting the press for their attack on Ms. Powers. Better to see a supporter, who won a Pulitzer prize for her work in Africa and left a Harvard professorship, to help his campaign, torn apart, than risk the press turning on him. Jeez! What kind of gratitude is that? How gutsy is that? Unhappily, I see this as a turning point.

    Obama should defend Powers. A sense of humor wouldn’t hurt, either. Of the monster comment, he could have said, “Well, you know, those wouldn’t have been my words. But Stephanie is a great person and I stand by her.” That would have been admirable and more like what I think Lincoln would have done. Also, it would have left standing a comment I think Hillary deserves because she needs a 3AM wake-up call for some of her recent comments.

    McCain will all too likely win because he, alone, of the candidates, is capable of calling people idiots, as he did the New York bomber yesterday. To many in America, the first to call another an idiot is a winner, never mind the depth of his arguments. It’s street talk and they like that. Obama sadly needs someone to play that role for him. But it would appear he just threw her out an upper floor window. So much for loyalty toward an individual who deserved much more. I’ve been an Obama supporter. Now I’m having second thoughts.”

    Have you ever watched a game where one team gets way ahead and then starts playing more defensively than offensively? Often the other team will then make a great comeback. I suspect it’s very difficult not to become tentative when you’re ahead in the polls. I wonder if Obama didn’t at some point become afraid to follow his better instincts. It must be a very difficult position to be in. I’ll bet it feels similar to what a teacher might feel who has learned to be quite natural around her kids and then the principle walks in to observe and in that moment of self-consciousness, everything changes.

    In the case of a campaign, the press acts as a constant observer. And when it’s pressing hard, it must requre quite an individual to remain composed and natural. Given that, it must be especially difficult not to succumb to advisers rather than be true to oneself. McCain tells horrible jokes that get the press on his case. And I think that works to his advantage because the public thinks no adviser would ever have told him to tell that joke. And they like it when a candidate doesn’t seem completely controlled. God knows, I hope McCain doesn’t win. But I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised.

  2. Carol Says:

    One thing I find causing anxiousness is that people are looking at Barack like he’s bigger than life. I saw him walking through a crowd today and felt a wave of paranoia sweep over me such that I questioned whether I might have become neurotic. But I observed facial expressions of one of his body guards mirroring my own feelings and felt sane thereafter.

    I can’t imagine how people would handle it if we had another horrible assassination right now. I don’t know if we could. It is so very nauseating to consider. But that bigger than life look existed in Martin Luther King crowds and in Bobby Kennedy’s, too. I fear that look of awe puts candidates in danger. On the other hand I don’t think that look existed so much in Reagan or John Kennedy audiences. Could it be ‘audience’ is the key, here? I seem to be seeing a difference. One is a crowd. One is an audience. Why? It’s the awed look I associate with crowds.

    Of course we have metal detectors now to check people entering public arenas. So that’s a big help.

    But I worry sometimes.

  3. peacay Says:

    The press have a vested interest in the contest going on as long as possible. It’s hard not to hold them responsible – to at least a moderate extent – for the appearance of combat between the HRC & BO forces. Many of the otherwise mundane occurrences, in so far as regular political contests go, are beat up far beyond their intrinsic ‘weight’. So so so sooo much anger is being vented online at least. [my own view from the antipodes is that the polarising effects of GWB has socialised politically active or aware people into only engaging in aggressive/offensive ways]

    So what if Powers called HRC a monster?! She wasn’t a paid staff member. It would be silly of BO to get into that one I think. There is every possibility she could rejoin later on. (personally, I still feel that the reporter ought not to have printed it. Bad form, no matter how she describes ‘the rules of engagement’)

    Something about that speech of BO the other day that hasn’t been getting toooo much attention that I’ve seen, is the vulnerability for attack ads later on (if BO gets the nomination) because there was no forceful rejection of Rev Wright. [personally, I don’t have a problem with the Wright ‘stuff’ and I think HRC’s team is wise to keep well away from invoking Wright and his words in any way shape or form]

    One piece I saw (think it was Politico?) had some commentary from some of the advert men behind the swiftboat ads from the last election. They were saying that the beauty of the present situation – similiarly to 4 years ago – is that the patsy’s (BO’s) own words can be used; probably in a similar fashion as has been bandied about the internet (and got a McCain staffer suspended), tying in BO’s wife’s gaffe together with film of Rev Wright and snips from the BO speech. There’s more to it of course — why keep attending and exposing your family to such venting if you say you disagree with some of Wright’s extreme views? 20 years!!

    That will be very lowest common denominator stuff. It will be very easy to imply that BO is unAmerican and harbours racist attitudes towards white people. I can’t help but think that that sort of (expected of course!) tactic will get some serious traction, particularly closer to November.

    I wonder if the HRC people will use this argument with the supers? It would be tempting for sure but would of course backfire if word got out – probably something as a last resort argument in June or whatever.

    The whole thing is looking kind of more shaky in terms of potential damage to the dems overall now though. With Florida/Michigan being out, I can’t help but think that HRC will have a legitimate basis for saying that there has been disenfranchisement and that whatever the del/pop numbers are by the time they get to Denver, she will be justified in saying that those results are not final nor set in stone nor legitimate.

    And of course, this whole outrageous kerfuffle may just cause dems in the respective states to opt out of voting come November by way of protest — I can’t believe swing states have been left to dangle like this (mind you, this was on the cards for more than 2 years: since Florida’s first attempts to change the primary date). It is a very significant gamble on the part of DNC to have not intervened earlier. It could still cost the presidency, irrespective of who gets the nod in Denver. Life is very very weird.

  4. Jack Says:

    I hadn’t given up. I was doing research, thinking if I could only make the discovery, there might yet be a substantial reward in it for me. Of course I’m talking about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I thought I was getting close and then stumbled into this. http://www.coxar.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/

    Jack Cass

  5. Raz-ma-taz Says:

    After readin that gal, Riverbend’s story, from Iraq, I felt shamed. And I felt anger too. I wonder if yuz gotta be older to feel shame. I’m thinkin it might result from comparison between two ways. And if yuv only ever known one, there can be no rejection.

    Could be kids don’t pick up on old time morality cause much of it can only be found in black and white films. And thems not sumethin kids like to watch these days. Gotta be color now. Back when the screen was black and white so was the plot. Good and bad wuz clear and defined. The bad guys wuz those who attacked others.

    Simple. If yur troops wuz bein used tuh invade and occupy you wuz in the wrong. If yur side was torturin people, you wuz evil. If yur goverment was spyin on its own citizens, why you wuz livin in a communist state. And that kinda place was despised. For us communism nevar had nothin to do with economics. We wuz ignorant of all that. Rather it was related to oppression. And we believed in freedom from that.

    And then came color and spagetti westerns. And from then on it became fuzzy determinin who was good and who was bad. Everyone was both and the same. And sadly that seems the way tis now. Our definition of good has become ‘us.’ It’s that simple and try tuh make it any more complicated by suggestin there should be clear rules of conduct, why you’re an America hater. And God spare me the oppression of that kind of label. I git innough oppression as it is. I’d better keep my big mouth shut. Tis gettin tuh be dangerous not to I says.

    So what I like to do now is sit back in my rockin chair and turn on the radio. I may be shamed of much America is doin. But the music. Ah so many changes through the years and all so very good. This is why I be proud of America. Tis why I be proud of Blacks too cause America would be nothin but trash if not for its music. And its music would be nothin but trash if not for its Black citizens. Seems odd tuh me so many look down on those whose works help em keep their heads high. But then that’s just how I sees it.

  6. John Trumbell Says:


    You dare be ashamed of America? You should be grateful you have a radio. The money for that was given you from us, above. And we wouldn’t have received it to pass on to you, if not for being combative. What do you think got us out of the depression? Franklin Roosevelt? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. It was war that got us out. Wars are money makers. Truman understood that before you democrats became so twisted. It’s why he was so quick to start a new one. They’re great for the economy. Did you really believe it was from tax cuts we’ve been doing so well? Even Greenspan stated they’d lost their stimulative power only months after they took effect. He also conceded government revenues were down because of them.

    I can tell you now because it’s too late to stop those cuts. It was two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that gave us a boost. And even, today, in a failing market, thanks to Bush and the industrial military complex, you can safely invest in war stocks like Aliant (ACT). They just received a $300 million dollar contract from the government for bullet supplies. And you want to mess up great contracts like that? What to Hell is the matter with you?

    Who cares about some gal in Iraq? I don’t even fret over American losers so why should I worry about foreigners, especially foreign refugees? I mean, how much more of a loser can you be than refugee? Look, Gramps. You’re senile and don’t understand. The purpose of our lower classes is for you to sacrifice for those of us who more important. It is we, the elite, who decide whether America be great or no. Peasant huts long ago faded to dust. But castles endured and are what point to former great nations. And it was the wealthy who could afford those. Do you get it? Historical greatness is determined from architecture and other arts. More money in the hands of a wealthy few means they are patrons of great works of art. Big bucks help inspire and create great artists. And their works are what endure and give credit to a nation. Give money to the likes of you and you’ll just waste it on food, liquor, health insurance, or some other such nonsense. And those kind of purchases do nothing to make for a great nation. Money belongs in the hands of those who know what to do with it.

    A nation is like an ant or bee colony. You’ve got to have workers who are willing to sacrifice themselves for royalty. And certainly we shouldn’t hesitate to have foreigners doing the same for us if we can pull it off.

    No, Raz, I see your shame as betrayal. You set a bad example. We can’t arrest you now. But you wait and see. We’re watching people like you. And when another attack or two occur and more fear is in the air, Americans will be ready to see your likes hauled away for treason. “Where to?” you ask. How does the hot Arizona desert sound? There is plenty more space there. And we’ve a sheriff ready to put the likes of you in pink underwear, too. Enjoy your radio while you can because I don’t believe he’s going to let you have one, out there in the midst of suffocating heat, scorpions, and rattlesnakes, where U.S. bashers belong. Only be grateful if we don’t shoot you.

    I heard today Medicare should go broke in eleven years. If we don’t get to you first, old man, I pray you live to see that day when health care has been cut off to you and you die neglected and beneath concern. That’s what you and your kind of America haters have coming.

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