November 2, 2008


Barack the bargainer a blank slate for dreams: an interview with Shelby Steele (The Australian, November 03, 2008)

Doogue: There's a marvellous quote from him: "I am new enough on the national political stage to serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them."

Steele: Yes, he is a blank screen, he's mastered that. But again, that makes my point. As a sort of nice black fellow, well-spoken, articulate, clearly intelligent, but yet undefined. No one really knows who he is, no one knows what his deep convictions are, what his passions are. No one knows what direction he'll really go in when power comes to him. As I say, he's guaranteed to disappoint people.

Doogue: So what do you think Obama has given up in this quest to control himself so comprehensively - that's what you suggest - and clearly you're drawing on your own experience, that there's this utter, complete discipline required, which of course could be the most marvellous predisposition for a good president, couldn't it?

Steele: We'll see. I think what he's given up is an individual identity, he's given up himself. There is no authentic Obama voice yet.

Doogue: Nevertheless, does he represent an advance of the American dream?

Steele: No, I don't think so.

Doogue: Really?

Steele: You have to remember that America has been ready and willing to elect a black president probably for 25 years at least, and had Colin Powell (nominated) back in '96, he would easily have beaten a very weak Bill Clinton at that time. In other words, what I'm saying is that the society has already changed. It changed a long time ago. It's a much better world than it was 40 years ago. So Obama is not change, he is just documentation of change that's already happened.

Blacks are free today to do and become anything they want in this society. It is wide open. If anything, the only discrimination they will encounter will be in their favour, rather than against it. So the idea that he's going to bring in change is I think a misnomer; that change has already been here.

It's exquisite the way the interviewer here demonstrates Mr. Steele's point that there is n Barack Obama beyond what each of his supporters imagine him to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2008 11:19 PM
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