Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama speech

I watched the speech this morning right before we hopped in the car and drove home from the grandparental abode. Aside from the fact that his dilatoriness and verbosity delayed our departure, my focus group (my dad, my mom, a nephew, his girlfriend, my wife, and kids) wasn’t impressed. Of course, I didn’t expect them to be, as they’re for the most part not exactly swing voters.

My first blush reactions (recalling them after a mind-numbing ride on the interstate) were that (1) he began by confusing the Declaration and the Constitution; (2) his "perfect union" is much less modest than that of the Founders, which isn’t surprising, of course; (3) for those who had read or heard lots of his speeches, there was quite a bit of recycling, with not much genuinely new; (4) he understands everyone’s anger, but only seems to blame conservative politicians and talk radio hosts for exploiting it; (5) the policy proposals are familiar, but he wants those who object to them to seem somehow crabbed and backward-looking; (6) the speech was quite self-referential in a way I found off-putting; and (7) his limited praise for conservative "Cosbyism" is undercut by the ways in which he continues to wish to apportion lots of blame for the plight of poor blacks on things like education (which has been massively funded by all levels of government since the 60s and which has been controlled in urban school districts by leaders elected by African-American majorities for almost that long).

I’ll have more to say when I can read and think about the speech at my leisure. My preliminary bottom line is that he probably won’t lose too many more Democratic voters over his relationship with Rev. Wright (barring any new bombshells), but that this speech doesn’t help him much with the rest of the electorate. It’s not, I think, a pivotal moment in his campaign.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Obama is a product of the left with a special debt to the reverse-racist left in the form of Pastor Wright. He pays lip service to American principles, as all national candidates must when effectively challenged. But his heart remains with the reverse racists. Obama's "unity" candidacy is therefore a fraud. The Rev. Wright must become a household name, and some of his comments must become household knowledge, well before the November election. The sooner the better.

Obama sounded an awful lot like Lyndon Johnson to me.

I don't see where he mixed up the Declaration with the Constitution. True, he should have said SUMMER of 1787. My recommendation: watch the speech again, without the (life-giving) distractions.

The schools where lots of poor blacks live are still bad, and probably worse than ever. That goes for obscure counties in south Georgia as much as in the poor parts of the city of Atlanta. The schools are not bad due to lack of spending, of course, although in south Georgia especially some of the blame could reasonably be put on racism. I'm not for the remedy of "reverse discrimination," and I might even add that the only reasonable remedy in some areas is vouchers. But I still didn't find Obama's words all that objectionable on that score, and his fans eat up his self-referentialism. And I'm shocked that the speech was somewhat partisan. Steve and Carl and Lucas are right, it was very effective.

I agree with Ben that there's lots of LBJ in the speech, with Steve that I missed a word in the opening ("made real their declaration of independence"), and with Peter that there are still lots of bad schools, though the urban schools are bad for reasons other than why the rural schools are bad. A genuine prophet wouldn't just call for more spending, but would take a closer and more extended look at what puts those kids behind the eight ball. There's lots of blame to go around, from self-serving teachers' unions and school administrators to a devaluing of education among certain elements in the African-American community to irresponsible biological fathers and so on.

I credit African-American churches (including, I have no doubt, Trinity UCC) with attempting to address a number of these problems, but the feel-good rhetoric of anger doesn't help.

There is a very good set of analyses of all this at National Review Online. I would direct y'all's attention to those. Here at "No Left Turns," we seem to be going for style rather than substance, or the frank recognition of non-substance.

Yes: more spending was too easy and beside the main point. I just don't know how much Obama has thought about education. First, we blow up the education programs, especially the undergraduate ones.

Obama's speech is easily the most thoughtful reflection on the founding principles during the 2008 campaign so far, excepting Romney's speech on religion. Obama is impressive by his temperateness. He does not dwell on the darkest parts of human nature but recognizes that black and white all suffer for the sin of racism, even as Lincoln suggested we would suffer. In my judgment, where Obama fails is in understanding the American character in light of those principles. The American character summons every American to stand up, to take responsibility for his own life. It emphatically denies that dignity can come from a government grant or welfare program. On the contrary, government support policies such as he promotes undermine the American character. They encourage Americans, especially the poor and minorities, to become supplicants who can only thank the bureaucrats for the crumbs handed to them. They reduce citizens to subjects, transforming equality and liberty into Old World manorial dependence or its American counterpart, the plantation. They destroy the core human virtue of prudence by eliminating the need to make risk-taking decisions for the future. They increase inequality rather than reduce it. Thus Obama's liberal policies fail his unifying vision. He is in my book a classic demagogue -- too appealing to defeat easily, too dangerous to be allowed to control our government.

A "classic demagogue" gives a "most thoughtful reflection." Ooh-kay.

I think conservatives are going to have to work much harder (and still it will probably be futile) to undermine Mr. Obama, and make this speech into something that it isn't.

It's especially amusing to hear GWB supporters (past, present and those who wish not to discuss it at present) go over an elegant, well-composed, substantive and stirring speech as this with a fine-tooth comb. You should be in awe simply by the fact that Obama didn't butcher the English language (of which so many of you are gushing fans), invent nonsense words, and ramble incoherently in embarrassingly simplistic terms, as the man who endorsed McCain so commonly does.

Doesn't Obama now need to explain these comments?

"There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

That's Jesse Jackson in 1996. Far from having to work hard, Obama has potentially made his situation worse.

Obama's speech is easily the most thoughtful reflection on the founding principles during the 2008 campaign so far... Well, I would personally say that Congressman Paul reflected a lot on the Declaration, Constitution, and Founding principles and was much more thoughtful of them. Obama is better at relaying them to the American public, though (and is not dismissed as some crazy classical liberal ranting about the way we used to do things).

I watched the speech last night via YouTube, reading along from a website as I did so. I think the speech was impressive and, in the end, useful to the American public. Yes, it is imperfect in that it fails to acknowledge the Declaration and our equal, natural rights as human beings, but it is the first time in this campaign where a candidate has effectively opened up discussion on our Constitution, our principles, and what it means to be American. Yes, it is tainted by his progressivism, but at least he now has ordinary people thinking about it. I hope it opens a national dialogue. If only the Republicans (and other Democrats) could jump into it. Sadly, I don't see any of them, especially Senator McCain, successfully entering the conversation in a good way.

And regardless of all this, Obama has ensured himself the Democratic nomination. The superdelegates cannot vote against him now, even if Pennsylvania goes to Clinton by a decent margin. The problems it would cause would make the Democratic Party collapse (which might not be a bad thing; I'm ready for one or both sides of the aisle to completely fall apart and start anew, but that's just me...).

10: Craig, you are morally confused, sir. Cannot spin and lies be elegant? Cannot honest communication be inelegant, even incompetent? Is it really all about style for you?
12: R.O.B., you have given us more "terminal naivete," as the late William F. Buckley, Jr., might put it. Obama hasn't "opened up" any discussion. He has simply fooled a few intellectuals, reinforced his liberal credentials, done his best to quiet down an explosive story, and further angered those conservatives, like me, who see through him.

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