22 February 2008

Obamania I

Peggy Noonan scares me every once in a while. I get worried that she is slipping into a mode that many commentators fall into as they become olde...er...more seasoned. But then she restores my faith. Today's column is a great one, and it draws together several issues related to Obamania that are worth addressing. Some excerpts:

Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)
Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.


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Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.
That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.


Read the whole thing.

4 comments:

brotimmy said...

I find it annoying that people are so anti-intellectual.

Think, don't feel!

Oh wait, that goes counter to what the Obama camp wants you to do.

Michelle has even said on campaign strategy phone calls, "Barak, stop thinking and just feel."

Maret said...

I'm terrified. Barak has such magnatism (my friend calls him a young che, and that's when he's being nice).

I can't think about politics anymore. I'm numb.

Pam said...

Peggy Noonan only scares you a little?

Lowdogg said...

Only when it seems that she is wavering in her seasoned years.