Saturday, March 22, 2008

Making the personal political: Another view on Obama's Big Speech

With thoughtful, measured analysis and uncommon historical context, Duke law prof Jedediah Purdy considers "A More Perfect Union" and debunks some of the more shallow criticisms leveled at it, noting, "the most principled political heroism has always grown up out of what Yeats called "the foul rag and bone shop of the heart"." Further, "King himself, far from being the universally accessible Tiger Woods of racial politics, said plenty of things that would have gotten him pilloried." It's a really smart, insightful commentary on what is already one of the most talked about speeches in recent history.

This is one of Purdy's most important contributions, exposing the false dichotomies and extremes presented by so many professional commentators:

So which is it: the "profile in courage" that the New York Times admired, the evasive cop-out that conservatives denounced or the failed tactic that horserace handicappers predicted would not placate white swing voters?....It was, for all its ambition, a tactical speech by a candidate in a corner. It's amusing to see some commentators chide Obama for going after the Clinton campaign here and here....Even Lincoln's speeches - the mythic standard Obama has managed to get himself thrown up against - are political through and through, full of wry, ironic digs at opponents (and outright laugh lines, which Obama couldn't risk). The idea that moral and rhetorical ambition can't coexist with running to win is a trap for Obama, one he's mostly managed to avoid. That kind of ambition is how a candidate explains why he wants to win, not a high-minded consolation prize."

Purdy also remarks at length on the honesty and singularity of the vision and voice put forth in "A More Perfect Union", placing the speech squarely in context alongside Obama's memoir Dreams of My Father.

Most important, he acknowledges that, in addition to being necessary means to an end, enabling Obama to secure political redemption in the eyes of the American public, the personal, revelatory tone of "the speech" was needed simply because that's the way change is made:

The reason to go through the unpleasant stuff Obama called up is that there is no other way. There is no alternative that is purely "rational", washed pure of unstable emotional elements, whether technocratic problem-solving or clean principles. Every redefinition of the rights and duties of American citizenship has come with a vision of dignity. From Abraham Lincoln to Lyndon Johnson and beyond, civil-rights residents have helped people give up (some of) the perquisites of race in favour of the dignity of belonging to a (more) free country. Franklin Roosevelt redefined frontier independence as requiring security against sickness, joblessness and poverty in old age. Ronald Reagan justified his takedown of Roosevelt's welfare state by reasserting, in sometimes beautiful political prose, that we had been stalwart frontiersmen all along. [italics are mine]

It's a really smart reflection. But don't take my word for it, everyone should really read the whole thing and tell me what you think!
read more digg story

Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress

A prominent Stanford law professor on Thursday launched an ambitious project that aims to use collaborative software to harness the extraordinary levels of pent-up political energy and dissatisfaction that voters have shown over the past two years with their members of congress.

read more | digg story

New CBS Poll: Most See Barack's Speech on Race as a Success

New Poll Shows Obama Speech Effective: "Most voters following the events regarding Senator Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright think Obama's speech was a success. Most agree with his thoughts on race, and think he did a good job explaining his relationship with Rev. Wright..." 1/4 of Dems say they are now MORE likey to vote for Barack.

read more | digg story

Friday, March 21, 2008

Story behind the story: The Clinton myth - Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen - Politico.com

Politico makes a well researched, but surprisingly bold and likely controversial assessment given Barack's recent troubles, "Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning."

Citing a variety of unnamed inside sources, they explain:
Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.
People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet."

McCain getting crushed by Dems in money war - Kenneth P. Vogel - Politico.com

And yet even as this AP report reveals a huge imbalance in financial terms in favor of the Democratic candidates and the record shows similar imbalances in primary turnout, the polls are telling a very different story. There, McCain is running strong with little paid media support. This should give any Democrat pause, a sense of mission, and a great deal of respect for the candidate we will face and the work we have to do in the Fall:

"John McCain had his top fundraising month in February, pulling in $11 million mostly after he all but secured the GOP presidential nomination with a collection of big wins in the Super Tuesday contests on Feb. 5.

But that was less than the $11.7 million the senator from Arizona raised in January, when he was still locked in a tight four-way race for his party's nomination, suggesting Republican donors have yet to coalesce behind their standard-bearer.

His February tally pales in comparison to the staggering sums raised by the two Democrats, raising troubling questions for Republicans as they look toward November and perhaps increasing the likelihood McCain will accept taxpayer cash for his general election campaign."

Full Faith

Writing for the New Republic EJ Dionne, author of "Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right," provides a fuller look at the place of Christian faith in Obama's progressive vision:
"In truth, Wright's statements highlighted by the press ran directly counter to the gospel Obama has been preaching: the message of Civil Rights Christianity, a decidedly multiracial and hopeful creed. Obama's emphasis on hope; his talk of struggle, organizing, and movement-building; his repeated references to 'the fierce urgency of now'-all openly echo the vocabulary of a civil rights cause steeped in the Scriptures. In particular, he invokes not the
side of Martin Luther King Jr. capable of great anger over injustice, but, rather, King's most conciliatory themes.

If Obama's approach is a sincere move (he is plain in his book that he became a Christian in part because he was 'drawn to the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change'), it is also a shrewd one. In trying to move the religious dialogue forward, Obama is drawing it back to a time when so many pastors were successfully allied with liberalism on the civil rights question that none other than Falwell scolded, 'Preachers
are not called upon to be politicians, but to be soul-winners.'

Civil Rights Christian language has many political advantages; most notably, it is resolutely centered not on the defeat of adversaries, but on their conversion. The conversion theme, and Civil Rights Christianity's notion of building a cross-racial 'beloved community,' fit almost perfectly with Obama's core message of political and racial reconciliation. 'We need to take faith seriously,' Obama writes in his book, 'not simply to block the religious right but to engage all persons of faith in the larger project of American renewal.'"

Richardson Endorses Obama - New York Times

Great timing, excellent statement by Bill Richardson:

"“I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world,” Mr. Richardson said in the statement, provided by the Obama campaign early Friday morning.

“As a presidential candidate, I know full well Senator Obama’s unique moral ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent
challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation.”"

A Thinking Man's Speech - Peggy Noonan

I even agree, at least partially, with Noonan's one caveat about the speech. Well worth reading in full. Key quote:
"it was a good speech, and a serious one. I don't know if it will help him. We're in uncharted territory. We've never had a major-party presidential front-runner who is black, or rather black and white, who has given such an address. We don't know if more voters will be alienated by Mr. Wright than will be impressed by the speech about Mr. Wright. We don't know if voters will welcome a meditation on race. My sense: The speech will be labeled by history as the speech that saved a candidacy or the speech that helped do it in. I hope the former."

E. J. Dionne Jr. - Another Angry Black Preacher

EJ Dionne's column is simply the smartest, most insightful and fair analysis I've seen on this whole affair:
"One of the least remarked upon passages in Obama's speech is also one of the most important -- and the part most relevant to the Wright controversy. There is, Obama said, a powerful anger in the black community rooted in "memories of humiliation and doubt" that "may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends" but "does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. . . . And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews."

Yes, black people say things about our country and its injustices to each other that they don't say to those of us who are white. Whites also say things about blacks privately that they don't say in front of their black friends and associates.

..........I'm a liberal, and I loathe the anti-American things Wright said precisely because I believe that the genius of our country is its capacity for self-correction. Progressivism and, yes, hope itself depend on a belief that personal conversion and social change are possible, that flawed human beings are capable of transcending their pasts and their failings.

Obama understands the anger of whites as well as the anger of blacks, but he's placed a bet on the other side of King's legacy that converted rage into the search for a beloved community. This does not prove that Obama deserves to be president. It does mean that he deserves to be judged on his own terms and not by the ravings of an angry preacher."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Zbigniew on Morning Joe: Iraq through the eyes of a psychic

Former National Security Advisor Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski was prescient in his concerns on the eve of the United States-Coalition forces'invasion of Iraq. Five years later, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, he characterizes America as "bogged down" and "part of the problem" and explains why Barack Obama is the best leader to help us find a way out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chris Matthews Does Some Hardball Dancing with Ellen

When talk show hosts collide. It's not pretty. Chris Matthews starts off solid in his little intro dance on the Ellen Degeneres show, but then he gets creative and things go terribly, terribly wrong. Gotta love him. And I do.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Hope lives in bereft dad

As the News Observer reports, "Hope lives in bereft dad" of Eve Carson:
"In a church packed with mourners, Carson's remarks echoed many of the themes his daughter did, in word and action. They are words to remember as our community confronts the violence that ended Eve Carson's life.
Bob Carson noted that the roots of crime, and the pain of violence, are dilemmas that have been shuffled from one generation to the next -- until now.
'... I must tell you -- even with an aching heart, and yet with such hope and love -- that the friends of Eve, and their generation, will not be denied. They've got miles to go, and missions to keep, and we will be so much better for their undaunted perseverance.'"