Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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The Obama “race” speech.

March 19th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics, Rants

From Ralf:

What do you think of Obama’s speech? Pick one:

A) The Greatest Speech in the History of Forever!
B) Good, but not great.
C) More of the same, politics as usual.
D) Uppity Negro socialism.
E) What speech?

Based on your reaction, you are probably:

A) An Obama supporter
B) A Clinton supporter
C) A McCain supporter
D) A racist douchebag (i.e. reluctant McCain supporter)
E) A swing voter

Based on that criteria, I am somewhere between a Clinton and a McCain supporter - which is just about correct, to be honest. It was a well-presented speech that rang true in a number of places. I can’t say that publicly outing his (still living) Grandmother as a bigot in front of the entire planet was necessarily the best move available, but I understood what he was trying to communicate. So, in a total scandal vacuum, I’d say it was a good speech.

But it wasn’t delivered in a vacuum and my actual response isn’t on Ralf’s list. As I’ve said before, I actually like all of the remaining candidates for President. No matter what happens in November, we’ll have someone coming into power who I have relative confidence in and who will unquestionably be an improvement over the current administration. As a result, I’m not looking to be wooed by anyone and I’m not terribly interested in being moved by their theatrics and appeals to my heart and soul. I want to know how they will lead, where they will lead us and what they intend to do to get us there. And so, in terms of this scandal, Obama’s challenge in my view is to prove that he knows when to separate himself as a political entity from his own personal preferences. It’s literally a skill-set test.

As such, the only thing that matters as far as I’m concerned is whether or not this speech made any progress towards snuffing out the Jeremiah Wright controversy because - let’s be honest - that was clearly the practical intent of the address. And based on THAT criteria, I think it was a failure. It continued to provide tacit support for Wright’s divisive ministry, it continued to lean on the idea that Obama was somehow magically unaware of many of Wright’s more extreme positions. As a personal trait, I actually think standing by your friends - even after they’ve shown themselves to have major personal flaws - can be laudable, but Obama’s refusal to make a firm and final statement distancing himself from Wright - not simply from a brief selection of his comments - is definitively harming his campaign.

It’s illustrating poor strategic and political judgment, even if it’s simultaneously indicating that he has a firm personal and ethical commitment to his friends and loved ones. The voters of this nation don’t fall into that category. Obama doesn’t love us. He doesn’t even KNOW us. We need to know that - as the leader of our entire nation - he won’t make decisions based upon what is best for his friends and family. We need to know that he’ll make decisions based upon what is best for US, even if that means sacrificing close relationships in the process.

As a final note, I’m aware that this is a rather… unromantic view of the political process. Criticizing a candidate for not throwing a friend under the bus to help his own campaign probably comes across as exceedingly crass - especially to the hope and wonder crowd of emotion-heavy Obama supporters. But politics is a very specific game with very specific rules and you need to know that your leaders are going to play that game effectively if you give them your support. Jimmy Carter is a saintly fellow, but he was disastrously poor at playing the political game. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was guided - almost exclusively - by his personal, ethical beliefs. Which, in turn, resulted in an exceptionally poor stewardship over the American people. Richard Nixon was a bigot and a sociopath, but he was a political genius and he kept most of his craziest personal feelings in check when it came time to do the people’s business. I would vote for Nixon over Carter ten times out of ten.

So I guess what I want from Barack Obama is a lot more Nixon and a lot less Carter.

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