Peter. All good points. In my post below, I should have started by saying that Obama gave quite a speech. It was eloquent, and it was refreshing to see a man of the Left ground his thoughts in America’s constitutional tradition, and to hear him appeal to basic American principles.
That’s all to the good. Perhaps he can help improve America’s race problem. On that point, that’s why distancing himself from Rev. Wright might be a bad idea. Wright’s ideas, as far as I can tell, are mainstream in black America. A man who wishes to bring America’s black community closer to the America’s mainstream might have to keep his connections with men like Wright for that reason. That is particularly true for someone who is half-African an half white, (and an Ivy Leaguer) rather than African-American.
On the other hand, Obama seems to think that America’s principles are the principles of Progressivism. The second half of the speech is, at heart, socialistic. I don’t think that circle can be squared. But on the other hand, he does make nods to the importance of self-help. Once again, perhaps he needs to talk that way to bring the Old Lefties along, and to help us move from a welfare state to an oppotunity society. (Obama’s voting record makes me think twice about that interpretation, but it is plausible).
The great question for America’s conservatives today seems to be this: now that we’re three-quarters of a century past the start of the New Deal, our tradition is a big-government tradition. That tradition rests in precarious tension with the principles of the founding. That being the case, statesmanship is a tall order.
I suspect that Obama’s policy bias it toward centralized solutions, decided by smart, Ivy League types in Washington, just as it was for the Progressives. That’s tied to his "unity" theme. Last night on TV, Frank Luntz highlighted his phrase: "Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive." The phrase suggests that Wright’s divisiveness is his greatest sin. It’s worse than his "wrong."
From that turn of phrase, combined with other things, I have grown to suepct that Obama does not appreciates the connection between the egalitarian principles upon which our constitutional union was built, and the checks and balances that are essential to its constitutional architecture. He wants simple unity, not a balance of forces. His belief he can sit down with any world leader and work things out appears to be the same principle, applied to foreign affairs.