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Election 2008 Obama

That Better Place Around the Bend


[Obama announcing his bid for the presidency in 2007.]

[digg-reddit-me]It’s funny to think of how much the pundits were complaining about how the convention speakers weren’t going after McCain before tonight. All that worrying. Yet, now, the plan is clear – all these other speakers were supposed to build Obama up – and then, Obama was supposed to tee off on McCain himself – at the moment of maximum publicity.

The Corner over at the National Review is sniping – nitpicking. They have pronounced the speech “LAME,” “Same old same old of the last two decades,” “pie-eyed utopianism,” “a September 10th convention,” and “This is not a great speech, and it is not a great delivery.” For the coup de grace, Kathryn Jean Lopez suggests “Maybe McCain shouldn’t speak next week and replay this instead?

With that type of response, it’s a wonder the Republicans haven’t been run out of town. Talk about out-of-touch. Or perhaps, these comments are better understood as the rationalizations of the captain of a sinking ship – trying to convince his crew to keep doing their jobs, and the band to keep playing.

Barack Obama gave, tonight, not his best speech – and not his best delivered speech – although it was delivered well and was a great speech. Because of it’s ambition, it could not be perfect. Instead of small perfection – like Obama’s keynote address in 2004 – it was a broad vision, with specific detail, responding to all of the charges thrown against him, and striking at the perceived strengths of his opponent while praising his past opponents and calling on the best in America. It was exactly the speech he needed – accomplishing so much without overstretching. It was truly remarkable.

MSNBC made some headlines for it’s on and off-air catfights recently, but Chris Matthews summarized the highlights and the genius of the speech well in the immediate aftermath:

Keith Olberman: I’d love to find something to criticize about it. Got anything?

Chris Matthews: No. I’ll be criticized for saying he inspires me, but to hell with my critics…I think what he said was about us; and that’s why we care about what he said. It was not about an ego – it was about a country. And when he said it at the end, he really challenged the country to make a decision. He said our strength is not in our money or our military or even our culture – he said it’s the American spirit, the American promise that pushes us forward even when the  path is uncertain. It binds us together in spite our differences; it makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but in what is unseen – that better place around the bend. That is America. And I think that is the challenge. It is an open challenge to the hearts and minds of the country. They can choose him or the other guy. It’s an open election.

But what he was saying is choosing the unknown is what we did when we picked Roosevelt; it’s what happened the country chose Reagan; it’s what they chose when they chose Clinton; oftentimes you have to take the unknowable and move away from the unacceptable. And in this case he’s saying: ‘Place your bets on the 90% not the 10%’ where McCain disagrees with Bush.

I thought it was an amazing..but…I’ve written speeches all my life, of course nothing like this. Let me tell you what was great about it. What he did was – and it’s a military practice – it’s called attacking from a defensive position. It’s how Henry won in Agincourt; it’s how Alexander won; it’s how Reagan kicked the butt of Jimmy Carter. And what you do is this: you take your opponent’s best shot and throw it back at him.

Are we a nation of whiners? If this is an ownership society, you own your failure. Was my upbringing a celebrity’s upbringing? If you’re going to follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell, how about going to his cave and getting him? And how dare you say this election is a test of patriotism when we’re all in this together? It was a great way of throwing back the other side’s best shot and saying it’s full of crap.

Politically, it was a remarkable performance. Now we see if the McCain campaign and the Republican noise machine can match him – or at least neutralize him and his message. “Class warfare!” they will say, because he spoke of how the tax code penalizes work; “Tax and spend” they will say because he want to fix our nation’s failing infrastructure. They will paint him as weak on national security – despite his pledge to build up our military and defend our nation’s interests. They will call the same plays as they have for the past three decade.

I pray that enough of us will choose something better – will choose the unknown over the unacceptable – will choose to find that better place around the bend.

One reply on “That Better Place Around the Bend”

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