Daily Blog Buzz: Obama's Speech, Wright or Wrong
12:25 PM, Mar 19, 2008 • By SAMANTHA SAULT
The blogosphere is still flooded with talk of Obama's pastor problem, and the big buzz is Obama's race speech from yesterday (watch the speech highlights). Was the speech effective? Did it adequately address the Rev. Wright issue? Bloggers are mostly divided by ideology.
Left-wing bloggers conducted a group worship service for the Messiah's rhetorical gifts. Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum says, "It was, as usual for him, a helluva good address: intelligent, sane, sympathetic, and broadly appealing." Glenn Greenwald calls it "riveting, provocative, insightful, thoughtful and courageous." TNR's Jonathan Chait adds: "extremely smart and intellectually subtle." Choose your favorite lefty blog, and you'll find similar adjectives.
As a race speech, Andrew Sullivan gushes "that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime." Even Charles Murray at the (right-wing) Corner got in on the worship: "As far as I'm concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant--rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America." MyDD's Jonathan Singer concludes, "The speech truly fit in with the overall belief driving the Obama campaign -- that in the end, we are all not so different, and we can still come together as Americans to form a more perfect country." Beautiful.
These bloggers think he sufficiently addressed the Wright issue--or at least smoothed it over. Matthew Yglesias says that "channeling the Jeremiah Wright controversy into a 'major speech on race' was a savvy move." American Spectator's Kate Sheppard concludes, "It was the appropriate tone for the speech, not denying the validity of Wright's concerns while at the same time not embracing bitterness or divisiveness." In short, it was a smart political move that allows the left to sweep Wright under the rug.
Right-wing bloggers weren't impressed. Ross Douthat says that this speech will actually hurt Obama: "[I]t undercuts an important aspect of Obama's promise as a politician: Namely, his potential to break the mold of American politics, by transcending both the recent templates for African-American political activity (grievance-based shakedown politics on the one hand, Afrocentric separatism on the other) and the larger red-blue polarization in the country as a whole." The Corner's Amy Holmes adds, "Pastor Wright has singlehandedly turned Obama into the race candidate."
What about Wright? Ed Morrissey says the speech was "essentially a non-distancing distancing, akin to the non-apology apology. He excuses Wright's anti-American rhetoric with a mixture of rationalizations." Mary Katharine Ham explains further: "Deflect, deflect, deflect. It's not Rev. Wright's fault for saying horrible, hateful things, nor my fault for having the bad judgment to associate with him for 20 years."
And what does this speech say about Obama? Blogger DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications sums it up: "[E]ven though Obama emphasizes that his goal is to talk about what Americans can do, his examples and his core message are primarily about what Americans can't do. In this speech, Obama's focus was largely on how America and Americans have failed: Failed to bridge racial divides, failed to educate our children, and failed to provide meaningful opportunities to poor and disadvantaged Americans." Sharp distinction from the candidate who is running because he feels he owes America, isn't it?