We’re currently about half-way done with a collection of Lincoln’s speeches and letters. His most notable speeches–to the Young Men’s Lyceum, 1st Inaugural, Gettysburg Address, 2nd Inaugural–we’ve read a number of times. They are awesome. His 2nd Inaugural Address may be the greatest speech in American history.
We’ve also listened to and read a number of Barack Obama’s speeches. He is, as MJ says, a powerful speaker. However, we agree with a point made by Peggy Noonan a few weeks ago (WSJ subscription required). Barack Obama is an intelligent, articulate speaker. His ability to work a crowd and speak extemporaneously is awesome. We’ve done a bit of the latter and appreciate his ability all the more for it.
But we distinguish between the power of a speaker and the lasting effect and power of their words. Obama’s speeches and rhetoric lose their power when read from the page. They are insipid and narcissistic. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” The culmination of human history.
With all due respect to our friend MJ–and really, we can’t blame him, because he’s only parroting the line of the liberal intelligentsia–suggesting that Obama rivals Lincoln, belies either a complete ignorance of Lincoln’s speeches or a blind obsession for Barack Obama. His last speech was good, and it may save his candidacy from its association with Wright, but we’re familiar with Lincoln’s speeches and writing, and Barack Obama is no Abraham Lincoln.
We cite, but two examples from his recent speech:
In his speech, Barack Obama used his grandmother to communicate the depth of his association with Wright, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” Why not? He goes on:
[she was] a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Did he really need to out his grandmother as a racist? Does he really believe or expect any of the rest of us to believe that his grandmother’s private utterances are on par with the repeated and public racist statements of his chosen pastor?
This, folks, is moral equivalence. And it doesn’t explain or excuse Wright’s statements. Wright didn’t privately mention his racist prejudices to Obama, he peddled them in church week after week and then packaged them in a series of DVDs and sold them to the general public.
In his speech, Obama said that he didn’t think that racism was endemic in America (read: white people) but then, in a New York Times follow up to the comment about his grandmother, he said that she was “a typical white person.” (emphasis added)
Nice racial stereotype, Barack.
This contradicts his speech-professed belief that white America is not racist.
What will it be, Barack? Are we all racists like Wright and your poor grandmother?
The second point also draws on Obama’s poor comparison between his grandmother and Rev. Wright. Obama’s does not address and again, gives tacit approval to, the racial double standard that exists in this country. It is a double standard characterized by the soft bigotry of low expectations:
For the men and women of Reverend Wrightâ€™s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politicianâ€™s own failings.
He’s right about one thing: Democratic politicians have always exploited black anger. And the liberal elites in this country permit a racial double standard that does African Americans no favors.
It wasn’t just Wright and his generation applauding his conspiratorial racism, young African Americans cheered when he talked about the government’s secret plans to use AIDS and crack cocaine to kill blacks. He is inculcating his racism and bigotry in yet another generation.
If we want to end the problem of racism in this country, we cannot continue to allow one standard for whites and another for blacks. We are a member of the NAACP. We don’t agree with all of their policies, but we appreciate their historical fight for Civil Rights. If Barack Obama wanted to be a unifier, he would encourage, nay, demand, that the racial double standard end.
The biggest single problem disadvantaging not only blacks, but every ethnicity in this country, is the breakdown of the family. As Peggy Noonan mentioned in the same column:
That’s the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family.
The division is not between white and black or haves and have-nots, it’s between those with functioning families and those without. There are exceptions, but a dysfunctional family is very difficult to overcome. Every problem Obama mentioned in the latter part of his speech can be combatted and overcome by fortifying the American family.
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