Peggy Noonan, who knows a bit about oratory,Â thought it was a good speech. So did Charles Murray.
I’m not so sure.Â One blogger counts me among those who “managed to miss the points” of Obama’s speech andÂ pointed to my playful post over at “Chris Matthews’ Leg.”
What I do knowÂ is that Mr. Obama is anÂ extraordinary speech giver. And in all sincerity and candor,Â I did find it startling and refreshing to hear a liberal Democrat politician (of any color)Â offer a good-faith articulation of theÂ frustrations a “typical white person” feels aboutÂ affirmative action and the Black grievance culture.Â Specifically, Obama said:
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
For a lot of us who have heard nothing but demagogicÂ Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton victim-speak for 30 yearsâ€”this was pretty stunning stuff.Â As was Obama’s frank characterization of his pastor’s now-famous views about “White America”:
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country. . .Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Still, the speech that Chris Matthews described as “worthy of Lincoln” left meÂ itching to ask the candidate some questions. (full text and videoÂ here)
I’m not trying to be clever or pedantic. It truly would go a long way toward lowering my skepticism about the Hope and Change Express to hear Senator Obama’s answers to a few queries. Here goes. . .
â€¢ In your speech, you movingly explained why people of Rev. Wright’s generation are carrying bitterness, scars and resentments. Since T.U.C.C. worship services were surely filled with impressionable young people week after week, I wonder . . .
1: Have you ever gone to young people in your church and encouraged them to consider an alternative to what you described as Rev. Wright’s “profoundly distorted view of our country.”Â Â Â
2: Â Have you ever gone to the leadership of your church and challenged what you described in your speech as Rev. Wright’s “profound mistake” that our society has made no progress on racism.Â
3: Have you ever encouraged your children to disregard something they heard at church? If so, what? If not, why not? Â Â
â€¢ It is now widely recognized across the political spectrum that many well-intentioned welfare programs of the 60s and 70s were in fact devastatingly destructive to the Black family unit and actually created the epidemic of fatherlessness that in turn led to an explosion of gangs, crime and swelling prison populations–all contributing to lowering of living standards and prospects for millions of African-Americans. Given this. . .
4: Â Why in your speech, and elsewhere, have you called for a return to the kinds of statist, collectivist, top-down programs that have caused so much unintended damage and, yes, hopelessness?Â Â Â
Many ofÂ those now actively supporting your candidacyÂ haveÂ denounced and vilifiedÂ Republican politicians in the past for even the most casual ties to a controversial clergyâ€”ties much looser than those between you and Jeremiah Wright. So Â . . .
5: Have you or will you admonish such supporters to view those associations with the charity and understanding you’re asking us to view your 20 year affiliation with Wright and T.U.C.C.?Â Â
And in the spirit of bringing people together, will you denounce demogoguery and bigotry such asÂ this,Â this,Â this,Â thisÂ andÂ this?Â
AndÂ this, this, this, and this.Â Or this, this, this and this?Â
For most of this crazy election cycle, my waves of amusement,Â disgust, alarm and horror have not been triggered by Senator Obama himself, but ratherÂ by his ridiculous, ecstatic, cluelessÂ supporters.Â
To be sure, Obama will be the most liberal major-party candidate for the White House since George McGovern. And if he wins he will be the least qualified since Jimmy Carter. I’m also convinced he would be as big, or bigger a disaster for this country as Carter.Â As for the speech? It was a fine one, though the breathless comparisons to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” address are silly and an insult to King’s achievement. Â
And we would do well to keep in mind why the Obama speech became a campaign necessity. The revelations that the man who has been Barack Obama’s spiritual mentor and pastor for two decades spews American-loathing, racial bigotry and kooky conspiracy theories raised a legitimate question in millions of minds. Namely:
How can we reconcile Obama’s message of hope and change with his long, close affiliation with hate and pessimism?
“The Speech” was supposed to answer that question. But it really just changed the subject.Â So who among us really “missed the points”?