Welcome to the big leagues, Barack Obama. Sure, the speech rocked - why, Andrew Sullivan gave it all of the movie ad exclamation points it needed in a single sentence: "...searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian!" He forgot only "thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
And it really was as straightforward and unvarnished a statement as most national politicians are capable of delivering (for contrast, see Romney in the matter of Mormonism, 2007). Yet, it also opened the door to the kind of familial pop psychology by the right that has plagued Bill and Hillary Clinton for two decades. Much of the sophomoric Corner was kibitzing about whether Obama was toast or not - if that's political toast, butter me up some pumpernickel - but Kathleen Parker soon got down to the real truth:
What may be most telling about Obama's predicament may be found in his reference to his white grandmother — her fear of black men on the streets and her stereotypical remarks about blacks.
Yes, that may be the most telling thing about the Senator's "predicament" - though many of us white middle-aged guys could be seen nodding their heads in shared experience. Thus committed, Parker blathered on:
He said he cringed, but I'm betting he did more than that. Those remarks had to cut deep. A young boy who looks different from his immediate family is going to have identity issues of much greater magnitude than your run-of-the-mill "Who Am I?" questions all adolescents usually ask. His narrative of self-discovery and self-identification as an African American in Chicago begins there and the subtext is that his own source of emotional nourishment was polluted by a prejudice that was aimed indirectly at him. His grandmother — his surrogate mother at that point — rejected the black man he was becoming. The anger Obama heard in Rev. Wright's church may not have felt so alien after all.
Clever that. The angry rejected black man as presidential candidate. Always good for the polls. I wonder about Parker's own "Who Am I?" moment, what lacked in her own emotional nourishment. But what can you expect when you hang around the same back alley as John Derbyshire, who gave the short version of right-wing reaction:
Blame whitey, and raise high the red flag of socialism.
The best aspect of Obama's speech was its tone: quiet, dignified, ready for the long haul. Such stark contrast to the wild-eyed, full-on freak of some of his most ardent followers. In short - and to his credit - the Senator took it down a peg. Obama's speech, to my ears, wasn't quite the brilliant historic moment we'll no doubt hear about later tonight in MSNBC, but it did come with a distinct warning label for itchy Democrats : "no party will be destroyed in the making of this nomination."
UPDATE: I nominate Digby pal dday at Hullabaloo for best description of "how these things work in this endless campaign" - a masterly description of our bloggy sturm und drang:
I have a problem with these expected blog posts on expected speeches that the dynamics of 21st-century campaigns demand. This election has turned into some kind of bizarre series of rituals, like an season of Greek theater where everybody knows the plot and the audience is left to judge the work on the presentation. The parade of comment, counter-comment, conference call about comment, distancing from comment, and major speech incorporating remarks about comment is the real distraction in this campaign, diverting from a looming economic recession (a recession at BEST) and a tragic stalemate in Iraq. Rarely does anything good for the country come out of this exchange.
Furthermore, I'm sick and tired of this "action figure" conservatism where a bunch of stay-at-home bloggers decide for others what they should do in particular situations. "If I were Obama, I would have stood up during the sermon and fired a poison dart at Rev. Wright and talked about the need to cut the capital gains tax!" The imagined fantasies of these clowns resemble a Chuck Norris movie, when the realities involve far more Cheetos and nasal spray.