Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

I thought it was excellent. (Transcript here) It didn't have the awesome oratory of his campaign speeches, but it shouldn't have either. He addressed the controversy of his former pastor's incendiary statements by putting those comments in the context of the history of racism in American and the way it has bred resentment and despair for both blacks and whites. And most importantly he didn't distance himself from the man who performed his wedding and baptized his children and with whom he has had a 20 year relationship.

I have read criticism already (here) about his likening his pastor to his white grandmother, who occasionally made racist comments. Both of them, Obama said, were family. The criticism I have read and heard is that it's a bad analogy; he could leave his church; the pastor is not blood. This criticism misses the point. First, of all, he could leave his family if he wanted. People do it; it doesn't mean you stop being related but you can certainly stop having contact. In neither case could Obama dream of doing that. Why? The statements are expressions of fear and pain; this doesn't excuse them; they are still wrong. But they are windows into a wounded soul. But they are also a tiny slice of a whole person whose life and legacy is much more and much better than those few statements.

Will his speech put an end to the character assassinations of his pastor, and through guilt by association Obama? Even Obama had to say that he didn't know the answer to that. If the electorate wants to follow the right-wing noise machine down this rat-hole then we will see an endless stream of these quips popping up and this is what the talking-heads on CNN, et al., will keep talking about. And Obama's campaign will be lost. But more importantly, so will the opportunity to turn a page from the politics of personal assassination so we can address real issues.

I will happily vote for Hillary if she is the nominee; she could make a good President. But Obama has an opportunity to be a transformational President.

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