Sunday, March 23, 2008

More Commentary on the Obama "Race" Speech

Real Clear Politics has a few articles on Barack Obama's race speech from last week. Seems a lot of people still have a lot to say about it. If nothing else, he has generated an important national conversation on the topic of race. Unfortunately, it seems that people are just talking at each other, not with each other.

Here is some of this morning's commentary.

The Real Value of Obama's Speech

By David Broder

WASHINGTON -- In the days following Barack Obama's address on race last week in Philadelphia, there was broad agreement among politicians and journalists that "A More Perfect Union," as he titled his speech, was the most important he has delivered since his keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

It was much more than that. It was a politically ambitious, intellectually impressive and emotionally compelling argument -- ironically, one that may fall short of achieving two of its objectives but still be of great benefit to Obama and the country.

The immediate purpose -- and the urgent need that prompted him to schedule the appearance -- was to douse the controversy that had erupted over the repeated TV and YouTube showings of inflammatory excerpts from the sermons of Obama's longtime friend, mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Despite the praise for Obama's Philadelphia speech, the carnage started by Wright is likely to continue or recur, not only because there are some who despise the candidate they call "Barack Hussein Obama" and are eager to use this against him, but because there are many others deeply offended by his preacher shouting "God damn America!"

Read the rest.

Wright's Gift to the Right

Clarence Page

Early reactions to Sen. Barack Obama's Big Speech in Philadelphia about his pastor and spiritual advisor of 20 years, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., sound like a mixed review. "It was a nice speech about race," the conventional wisdom goes, "but what about that nutty preacher?"

Indeed, why was the Illinois senator delivering his brilliantly crafted argument for a renewed national dialogue on race at this moment in his campaign? Because goofy-sounding video clips were popping up all over television and the Internet of his Chicago pastor shouting nuggets like, "God damn America for treating its citizens as less than human!"

To stop the spreading damage and reassure his supporters, Obama delivered his most important speech since the blockbuster that launched him into the national spotlight at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

His new Big Speech elegantly and forcefully steered the conversation from Wright's divisive sound bites to the nation's larger divide over race, culture and class that feed anger, fears, resentments and suspicions along racial lines.

Read the rest.

The Wright-Obama Divide

By Steve Chapman

The important thing about Jeremiah Wright, the inflammatory former pastor of Barack Obama's church, is not that he thinks America is "controlled by rich white people," that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were the result of our "chickens are coming home to roost," or that God should "damn America" for its sins against blacks. It's that Wright is supporting a presidential candidate who clearly believes none of these things, but instead puts his faith in what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."

It's as if the Minuteman Project were to endorse a candidate who favors more Hispanic immigration. Wright has gotten behind a leader whose success badly undercuts the pastor's belief in the irredeemability of America.

That is a good thing. If there are people, black or white, who hold such a bitter, distorted view of this country, it's reassuring that the most congenial political figure they can find is one who radiates -- in fact, embodies -- our national faith in freedom and progress.

Wright apparently sees this nation as defective and divided beyond repair. Obama thinks the defects are only a part of the story, and that a unity transcending ancient racial distrusts is achievable.

What has fueled his candidacy is neither black anger nor white guilt, but a desire by people of different complexions to minimize the role of race in our society. In his book, "A Bound Man," Hoover Institution scholar Shelby Steele writes that Obama is "a living rebuke to both racism and racialism, to both segregation and identity politics... [H]e also embodies a great and noble human aspiration: to smother racial power in a democracy of individuals."

Read the rest.

Obama Did Nothing Wrong

By Ruben Navarrette

SAN DIEGO -- Barack Obama wrote and delivered a brilliant and brave speech that not only addressed the controversy involving his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but also kicked off a national conversation -- not just about race (been there, done that) but about how members of different generations view race differently. As Obama reminded us from Philadelphia, how you see the world isn't just influenced by the color of your skin but by the year of your birth.

Read the rest.

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