Writing on Forbes.com, Rich Karlgaard asserts that the Barack Obama address this week was "A Speech For The Ages."

Karlgaard writes:

"As a Republican who will vote for John McCain in November, I watched Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech with awe."

"On Tuesday Obama, whose momentum was evaporating in the heat of his pastor scandal and poor Pennsylvania poll numbers, did what he had to do.

"He did more than that, actually. He stepped to the plate and swung for the fences. Obama gave the best, straightest talk on American race relations ever heard from a national politician."

Karlgaard chastises conservatives for reacting through partisan lenses, seeing only the flaws (and sometimes inventing ones that are not there) in the monumentally forceful oration. He is right to the extent that the Speech seemed to polarize political partisans (along, not surprisingly, partisan lines) into either praising the speech as one for the ages (Gettysburg-like for some) or castigating it as a vapid, disingenuous act of political desperation.

Conservatives should admit that the Speech had elements of uncommon greatness. It occurs to me that those who ignore the sublime elements in the address are likely blinded by their desire for it to be a disaster.

Having said that, Obama boosters should admit that the inherently campaign-centered pronouncement had its limitations.

He showed brilliant eloquence in addressing and framing vexing questions in a breathtakingly honest and insightful way, but what about the answers? If LBJ liberalism was truly the remedy for America's problems, they would have been solved for forty years now.

He needs some new ideas...

In effect, candidate Obama gave two speeches:

One in which he soared to unique rhetorical heights, articulating a nuanced (and ultimately optimistic) comprehension of racial misunderstanding and mistrust in American.

This element was incredibly compelling (and we seem to know now that he had been crafting that speech for some time--which makes sense; components of it certainly seemed well considered).

On Tuesday, I read it before I watched it--and I loved it. Then some of the instantaneous analysis and reaction from the conservative bloggers started rolling in--and I wondered if it was not quite as good as I first thought. Later, after repeatedly re-reading the text and watching a replay on C-SPAN, I decided it was just as powerful as I initially believed--with one caveat:

It does drag when he gets to solutions.

Once again, what is he advocating? While marvelous and exhilarating in part, the Speech proved, in the end, unsatisfying.

Where was the beef?

Let us be honest with ourselves. We were all impressed with his direct talk on race. Why? Because that brand of frank talk is so rare when we discuss race in this nation. On the other hand, it is not actually hard to utter a few obvious truths--it is merely dangerous.

Generally, we are not receptive to honest assessments and complicated thinking in re race and history and culture. Honest men publicly take on race at their own peril. Ask Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, or Clarence Thomas.

Moreover, if Obama is so brave and honest, why not talk about Jena, Louisiana, with the same honesty and understanding for all parties? Or his own appeal? He seemed to have little reluctance in speaking about his white grandmother. Can we expect the same objective analysis regarding Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in the days to come?

The Speech was good. But it was a highly charged political affair designed to save a candidacy. There were elements, if delivered in a less vulnerable predicament, which might have initiated a constructive discussion on a vital topic. But, in the context of the moment, the Speech compares better with a Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon desperately fighting to preserve viability in the furious chaos of a media feeding frenzy. The great speeches are never delivered in the midst of a political campaign under fire. Try to name one.

Disappointingly, Obama may have had a great speech on race in him, but he gave it up to save himself.