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Writing on, 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.
Category: Race in America.ii
Posted by: Tocqueville
The Editors of National Review argue that Barack Obama deployed his formidable talents to try to minimize and excuse Rev. Wright’s rants. Available here.
In response to my analysis of the Address, my previously quoted learned friend weighs in:

I disagree with Steele. Obama is not merely someone for whom we are settling. It may be true that Obama would not be in the same spot if he were white, but that is tantamount to saying Bill Clinton could not have succeeded if he had not been from Arkansas. I cannot conceive of an un-Southern Clinton any more than I can conceive of an un-Black Obama.

Having said that, lineage is a fundamental part of his makeup. I also think that his ancestry gives him a unique perspective from which to govern. Although whites do not like to hear this, most of us are so far removed from black culture that we sometimes tend to see blacks as two-dimensional characters. Their experiences and cultural assumptions are so different from ours that we have a hard time achieving true empathy with them. We really cannot imagine being in their shoes.

We can hope that Barack, as someone who has lived in both worlds and speaks the language of both cultures, can address the concerns of both groups with empathy. Of course, there I go again with my sincerity and honesty talk.

In my view, Steele is completely wrong in his assertion that Obama has had to trade away his individuality and complexity to play the role of racial peacemaker. In fact, I think Obama's main appeal (even before the speech yesterday) has been his willingness to confront difficult but vital issues head-on—and then discuss them with nuance.

For example: please consider this speech he gave in 2006 concerning the role of religion in American public life. I have never seen a more thoughtful, honest, and nuanced discussion of the topic by anyone in politics.

An Aside: ironically, this consistent ability to examine tough issues with keen insight and uncommon courage often drives his opponents to fits of rhetorical hyperbole.

I agree that Obama did not offer solutions for the problems he identified, but that seems a bit onerous for a single address. Solving over two hundred years of racial problems in a campaign speech may be too much to expect, even for Obama. It is significant and admirable, however, in a political realm where these issues are NEVER confronted honestly, where the other side is routinely dismissed as hateful or un-American, that Barack faced race squarely and with vulnerability—and attempted to start a meaningful conversation.

For the record, I agree with your suggestion that we all need to reject the idea that there are certain things that just may not be discussed. Bumper sticker arguments and racially charged rhetorical landmines are poison to our political culture. We need not agree on all the vital issues of our time, but we should be willing to have civil conversations about everything.

In re his "boilerplate" comments concerning health care, job loss, and getting out of Iraq: these are the issues of the day. Americans have been apathetic about politics because politicians have not been addressing the issues closest to home. If Obama succeeds, it will be because he tackles these issues and forces a conversation about them.
~~A Learned Friend of the Bosque Boys
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
Geraldine Ferraro

What a vulgar thing to say. The incontestable fact that the thoroughly repugnant statement is manifestly true seems entirely beside the point.

There is mendacity in this house.

UPDATE: a hearty Texas welcome to Instapundit readers. For more on Obama and race: The Fire Next Time and 21st Century Race Man.