I avoided commenting very much on Obama's
last Tuesday. But now I've been sucked into it
by a blog posting from Joel Achenbach of
Washington Post. Joel's quite upfront about what he sees as
Obama says he wants to unite the country. Right-wing pundits say: Over
our dead bodies.
And he's also quite straightforward about his opinion of The Speech:
Obama gave what this reporter thought was an honest,
thoughtful, nuanced speech
on one of America's most sensitive
issues. And he did it right in the middle of sound-bite season. (I
retract my statement of yesterday saying it was the best speech since
Lincoln's Second Inaugural: It was actually the best since Henry V
excellent pep talk
on Saint Crispen's Day before the Battle of
So what's the problem with those "right-wing pundits"? Other than the
their sheer effrontry in daring to criticize Obama and His
turns out to
be tough to say.
But a number of pundits on the right really loathed the speech. They
have called it dishonest and cynical. They basically say you can't
believe a thing Obama says. No doubt they believe Obama's latest book
should have been titled "The Mendacity of Hope."
How dare they?
Gingrich told Hannity that the more he read the speech, "the phonier
it got." On another
Fox show, Gingrich said, "Look, I think it was a great speech, and I
think he is a great speech maker. And I also think it was
intellectually, fundamentally dishonest."
Gingrich's remarks on Hannity's show are here.
Joel's second link goes to Media Matters; there's a direct transcript here.
Phony? Dishonest? What it was, actually, was defining: It has helped
Speaker Gingrich, for example, remind us that he remains, at core, the
same ol' congressional back-bencher who loves to throw the verbal
In other words: How dare he?
My guess is that there's nothing Obama could have said that would
have satisfied some of these folks. Charles
Krauthammer writes that the Obama speech was "brilliantly
sophistic," which is a fancy way of saying that it was full of specious
arguments, which is a fancy way of saying that it was dishonest.
How dare he? Fortunately, there's a link, so you can make your
own call on Krauthammer's "fancy" argument.
are even more vituperative. Faced with a candidate
whocalls for Americans to stop believing the worst about their
political opponents, they respond by asking voters to believe the
worst about such a candidate.
The link goes to an Allahpundit post at Hot Air. Again, how
The core of their argument is that Obama is a fraud, a charlatan, or at
the very least a slippery character. He's Tricky Barry.
How dare they say something like that? Or imply it? Or at least make Joel
Achenbach think they implied it?
: 'It's a mistake to try to pigeonhole Barack Obama. He is too
smart and too agile to succumb to easy categorization. But the
candidate's eloquence is often more of a curtain than a window to his
soul -- and one is left to wonder where his heart truly lies. As George
Burns said of acting, "Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that,
you've got it made." '
I think that quote is more accurately attributed to Jean
: "Swaddled in all the high-mindedness was rhetorical sleight
of hand about the Rev. Wright." Lowry writes that Obama's base is "the
media," which probably comes as a surprise to the tens of thousands of
people who show up for his rallies.
Lowry writes that Obama's speech was designed so that it
"couldn't possibly get anything but lavish praise from the
press." Fresh from providing said lavish praise, Joel sputters: How
dare he say such a thing?
: 'What is wrong with Barack's prognosis and Barack's cure?
Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black
hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots
in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as
Nixon put it, "everybody but the rioters themselves." '
Joel's substantive criticism of all this:
He finishes up:
I liked the Noonan column too. Sullivan, of course has long been
even more besmitten by the Obama charm than Joel Achenbach.
After listening to Obama's call for unity, he pronounced that "large
swathes of today's conservative movement truly are hateful";
after scanning through responses to Obama's speech at the Corner he discovered "anger
and bitterness" which was "palpably fueled by fear and racism."
A number of people are pointing out the contradiction in using
Obama's speech to encourage
a "new conversation" on race in America while simultaneously
trashing any person who dares to point out that this particular
emperor isn't wearing any more clothes than your typical pol.
For example, Jonah Goldberg:
In fact, doesn't it seem like the majority of people begging for a "new
conversation" on race are the same folks who shout "racist!" at anyone
who disagrees with them?
Well, yeah. Also see Tom
Maguire and Ann
Althouse in the same vein. Frankly, if the Obamamanian
appeal to "unity" is used
to mask (yet another) unfair and stupid wave of attacks in the
conservatives-are-all-scummy-racists-who-should-just-shutup mold, whatever
was of value in Obama's speech is severely degraded. And for that
have to thank folks like Joel Achenbach and Andrew Sullivan.
Of course, it's happened before. Back in 1997
launched his "Initiative on Race"
to "promote a dialogue in every community of the land"
on racial issues. Plenty of inclusive talk at the outset, but
a few months later:
President Clinton's advisory panel on race decided to restrict testimony
and not consider the views of opponents of affirmative action when it
held a hearing on how to achieve diversity on college campuses. The
chairman of the panel, John Hope Franklin, said opponents of affirmative
action, like Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who led
the fight to ban the use of race in admissions to state universities,
were unlikely ''to contribute to this discussion.''
So much for "dialogue".
A few months after that, an opponent of "affirmative
action" did manage to wangle an invitation to a "town meeting" in Akron.
Abigail Thernstrom found herself confronted by Bill Clinton himself.
As recounted by John Hood at Reason:
celebrated exchange, part of the president's national "conversation" on
Clinton--impersonating Geraldo Rivera on a bad day--asked participants
they supported affirmative action in higher education. Thernstrom
correctly, that the real question was whether racial preferences, not
vague concept of "affirmative action," ought to continue.
"Abigail," said the president in mock familiarity, towering over her as
in her chair, "do you favor the United States Army abolishing the
action program that produced Colin Powell?" When she hesitated, he
"Yes or no?" he demanded. "Yes or no?"
Thernstrom refused to take the bait, and began: "I do not think that it
racial preferences that made Colin Powell...."
"He thinks he was helped by it," the president
This is, apparently, the kind of conversation that the president would
foster on race: superficial, bullying, and misleading.
(The late WFB, Jr. also
commented on the then-President's graceless performance in Akron.)
When Clinton's panel completed its report 15 months
after his initial announcement,
it landed with a dull thud in the midst of Monicagate. Positive effect
on American race relations: zero.
As Achenbach and Sullivan show, we're all ready for another round of
this charade. The "progressives" can't stand honest debate on this issue, because
they know they can't win on this basis.
The best they can do is snark and slime.