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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Want to know how to write a speech? This is how you write a speech:

I try to keep politics out of this blog, but this is political theatre at its finest.

Sam Seaborn would be proud.



Chris Hayes had the best take along these lines here:

"It felt like Obama was transgressing the norms of campaign discourse during the speech by directly discussing the narrative of the campaign itself. When he spoke about speculation that white men would vote for John McCain, I sucked in my breath, feeling as he was violating some sacred taboo. A presidential campaign is theater, and the conventions of that theater is that you suspend disbelief, stick to the script and don't break the fourth wall.

But in discussing the role that race plays in his candidacy, it was almost as if in the second act an actor just stopped reciting his lines, walked to the stage's edge and talked to the audience about his life. The subversive nature of this rejection of convention is part of what made the speech so gripping to me, and so powerful.

It was risky, and made him vulnerable, but his very ability to note the stage and lights that surrounded him, the rituals of the theatre, the clips playing on the news and the exit poll archeology that searches for racial divides, imbued him with wisdom."

By Blogger chrisc, at 2:10 PM  

Wouldn't argue with those comments.

I think all that would have been served better if he hadn't padded out with all the other comments that (inevitably) have to appeal to such a broad church they speak to everyone and no one:

"Black, white, rich, poor, young, old [...] every religion, every region, every walk of life..."

Yeah, we get it already. "everyone". Well, that really sets you apart from the other politicians who aren't claiming they're good for everyone...

By Blogger Anonymous, at 10:07 PM  

not as good as Bartlett's speech, "the streets of heaven are too crowded tonight".

By Blogger jakob, at 11:53 PM  

Great speech. I can't help but notice, though, that the US may be ready to elect a black president or a woman president, but they would not elect an atheist president.

By Blogger Tim W., at 2:46 AM  

I sure hope not,one of the building blocks of communism is athiesm.

By Blogger jakob, at 2:54 AM  

It's interesting that instead of the usual politician practice of completely rejecting old friends who say something embarrassing, Obama chose to denounce the angry speeches his old pastor had given, while praising and defending the guy for all the good things he had said over the years. That's a whole lot more sincere than the usual practice. Everyone says dumb things now and then, and when our friends do it we object to what they've said, rather than rejecting them entirely. Sure, if a friend goes weird and starts saying awful stuff regularly, it might be time to reject them, but that's not what we do with someone who's normally decent.

Besides being more sincere than the sound-bite approach of rejecting an old friend entirely, it's also more rational than the stubborn approach of defending someone unconditionally, even when it's clear that the friend is wrong. When your friends screw up, you don't tell them, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." You tell them they screwed up.

It's too early to tell whether the sincerity in Obama's speech will prevail over the usual US politics expectation of short, simple sound bites. But I hope it will.

As for the rest of the speech, I think he did an admirable job of talking about how race is a complicated issue. That aspect of the speech will likely get lost behind the buzz over Obama's rejection of his old pastor's embarrassing speeches, but it's very thoughtful. To an extent it backs up his comments on the old pastor, but it also addresses the issue of race in national politics in general. I doubt that the race-in-general part of the speech will be noticed much except by Obama supporters, which is too bad.

Also, good point, Tim W.

By Blogger Unknown, at 10:34 AM  

"I sure hope not,one of the building blocks of communism is athiesm."

Welcome to the thread Mr McCarthy, how you been the last few decades?

Seriously, atheists do not all fly under the red flag.


By Blogger Anonymous, at 10:43 AM  

Actually, Chris, I think everybody got it. The transcript is #1 on the New York Times most-emailed list. Lots of columnists -- including quite a few conservatives -- are talking about how Obama went beyond rejecting his pastor's occasionally nutty and offensive remarks, to talking about the real complexity of America's race problem. I think this turns it around for Obama.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:46 AM  

not all athiests are communists but all communists are athiests. When one eliminates the possiblity of a higher power the only thing left is to believe in the authority of the state. My point is I hope America doesn't elect some one who sees the government as the answer for everything.

By Blogger jakob, at 1:49 PM  

Personally, I think thought the whole controversy over his pastor was blown WAY out of proportion. Someone he knows said something controversial. Oooh. I thought using that controversy to highlight the problems of race in the US was brilliant, however.

Jakob, there are several major problems with your argument:

The first being that all people MUST believe in a higher power- apparently you don't know many atheists.

The second being that government is the only other `higher power'- logic, science, aliens, money, karma, altruism etc. etc.

The third being that atheism has anything to do with communism- religion and communism are not incompatible, however authoritarian regimes don't like any authorities other than themselves, which means if they aren't the head of the religion, then that's a problem.

The fourth is that communism failed, so why exactly would anyone be afraid of it? If you are speaking about fascism, which is diametrically opposed to communism, then I think what you are actually afraid of is authoritarian regimes, and one just has to look around the world to see that authoritarian regimes can use religion for their own ends.

Religious fanaticism has caused more wars than atheism, and doesn't exist without religion. Obviously it's not people's belief (or not) in something that is the problem. It's what they choose to do with that belief that can cause problems.

I do find it incredibly ironic, however that you would post these comments considering the speech that this Alex's post was about. Maybe you need to listen to it again. Or perhaps you're simply trying to be `ironical'.

By Blogger Tim W., at 12:42 AM  

Mikhail Gorbachev, devout communist, recently acknowledged that he's a Christian. The Communist Party is officially atheist, but there's nothing in the essential system of communism, small c, that requires atheism. Indeed, of all political systems, I suspect that Jesus Christ would be most comfortable with a system based on "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." He had that thing about rich people, remember? Nothing so closely resembles functional communism as a Christian monastery.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine how communism could possibly work EXCEPT with the intervention of the Almighty.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:35 AM  

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