Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Head and Shoulders Above

I should probably wait for the talking heads, pundits and Internetters to tell me what to think of Obama's speech, as written, but having just read it, I'll go ahead and give my impressions.

In short, I think it's his best moment of the campaign, a thrilling--yes thrilling--example of his appeal. It is a Lincolnesque speech by a Lincolnesque candidate from the Land of Lincoln. It is explanatory without being unnecessarily defensive.

It is transcentory and transformative in its outlook and hopes. It is broad-minded, and like Lincoln, equanimous in its acknowledgment of the challenges and prejudices of the working people. It is subtly critical of the media culture and of right-wing media in particular.

It reminds me a bit of the fictional former Governor Picker, who in Primary Colors, steps in to fill the role of a candidate struck down during the primaries by a heart attack. Candidate Picker calls for calm among his new-found enthusiasts, and laments the way news and politics is packaged so that candidates spend more time attacking each other than in confronting the nation's problems. Picker immediately brings a certain dignity to an increasingly undignified campaign and country.

There are items of the speech I could quible with. But they are minor. It is overall lofty yet wisely practical and connected to the wider country, and not just about him.

It is a home-run, a speech head and shoulders above that which could be given by either of the other remaining candidates.

There's also a chance that the furor over Wright's comments could have a positive effect, as the speech provides an opportunity for Obama to illustrate the nature of the problems facing the country, whether racial, economic, or (as poorly exemplified by its media) the popular culture. And it makes Obama more real, his rhetoric less dreamy and more rooted to everyday concerns, than would have otherwise been the case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment. Obama's speech shows that he is perhaps the first intellectual presidential candidate over the past decades.

However, can America elect an intellectual president? I doubt it. Does middle america (where the national election will be won or lost) care to understand such complexity?

Fox, Limbaugh, and the conservative bloggers are on a warpath. Its ugly, but I think they are winning.