March 19, 2008


Obama's faith in the reasoning abilities of the American public (Glenn Greenwald, March 18, 2008, Salon)

I haven't written about the Obama speech yet (video here) because I spent much of the day reading the instantaneous reactions of virtually everyone else, and because the issues raised by the speech are complex and my views about it are somewhat ambiguous. Personally, I found the speech riveting, provocative, insightful, thoughtful and courageous -- courageous because it eschewed almost completely all cliches, pandering and condescension, the first time I can recall a political figure of any significance doing so when addressing a controversial matter.

There were numerous manipulative tactics which the average cynical political strategist would have urged him to employ, and none of those were found in his speech.

...we don't Reason too well, but our reading comprehension doesn't suck. Leave us consider just two of the more cynical and manipulative parts of the speech.

First, on a personal level, there's his equating his grandmother with the Reverend Wright, whose views he's theoretically there to condemn:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

Nevermind whether an honest fear, once confessed, and a couple of stereotypes are equivalent to preaching hatred from a pulpit, note the subtexts. For one, Mr. Obama summoned his own whiteness in this speech, as an implicit assurance that he can't then be prejudiced against white people. Second, by lowering the bar of what defines racism so far that it includes even his grandmothers rather trivial comments, he makes everyone into a preacher of hate.

But, as if that weren't enough, he then dismisses the last thirty years of conservative government as just a racist spasm:

Like the anger within the black community, these [white] resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

This isn't just your usual partisan twaddle nor even the typical race-baiting that the Left tends to resort to, but an attempt to delegitimize conservatism altogether.

This was a deeply ugly speech and just because it was delivered well by an attractive face ought not to excuse the vile content.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 19, 2008 9:01 AM
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