Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sentiment on the campaign trail: Obama accepts

I began watching Barack Obama's DNC acceptance speech at the football temple last night out of curiosity and was somewhat surprised to see that I could last through the whole thing to the end. He is not as overtly smarmy as many embarrassingly unwatchable politicians are, thank goodness. A couple of times I checked my watch to see how much longer this 40-minute speech would be, but then a pre-speech, televised live interview with his wife, Michelle, had teased that the final paragraph of Barack's speech was a doozy, so I stuck it out to the end. Clever (and deceptive) marketing.

Personally, I didn't realize the final paragraph was the final paragraph until the speech was over (so much for a doozy of a conclusion), but maybe I'd dozed off a little there. The fireworks woke me up. I do have to say that the quiet instrumental soundtrack music played after the speech was quite remarkable for being unexpectedly sophisticated, instead of something facile like whatever the current rock version of "Happy Days Are Here Again" would be. I'd like to find out who wrote it and can we get it at iTunes? And are we at last turning a corner in musical tastes? That music was moving.

I also have to hand it to Barack Obama for one sure thing--if it had been Hillary giving that acceptance speech, I would've turned off the television in about three horrendously scarifying minutes, max. I can't stand that woman's voice, and I don't need to listen to her to know what she stands for. I am glad she's an also-ran (for the moment; I have no illusions that she and Bill won't be all too much in the fore and in the nation's face yet again and again). But Barack Obama is still an enigma and a wildcard, and as such can sustain a tension and hold attention.

I also keep thinking this: If Barack Obama didn't have such exceptionally perfect teeth, this whole election cycle would've turned out quite differently. He is blessed with a lovely-looking, telegenic family, including his sweet little girls, and he has remarkable teeth. Imagine him in his close-ups, delivering that speech, with say, brownish or crooked British-grade, non-Hollywood teeth. Somewhere along the line he was the beneficiary of some expert orthodontia as well as an expert Punahou-to-Harvard education. I guess his Kansas grandparents also passed on the family value of disciplined brushing and flossing.

One factor I admit I had not fully appreciated in all of this is how intensely emotional and historic the moment evidently was for the many weeping and tearful black people in the audience and around the nation. Taking advantage of the coincidence of the DNC convention's falling on a significantly historic day in the timeline of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s remarkable life, Barack Obama last night sent a shot directly into the heart of every black American (or at least every black Democrat) who had never before dared to dream or expect that an American with non-white heritage could reach the position of nominated Presidential candidate. John McCain recognized this moment and sent an appropriately classy acknowledgement as well. I liked that.

But I personally was caught off guard by all of that, because it had never occurred to me before that any American could not become President or would be ruled out solely due to skin color or heritage. Obama's acceptance of the nomination last night just seemed to prove my assumption. But from the televised crowd shots and interviews I learned last night that many black Americans evidently believed differently. If that is what Obama's message of "Hope" and "Change" means, I am truly glad his nomination gives such hope to people who did not previously have it. We should all join together in realizing and acknowledging that this is truly a unique and great country.

Whether or not this therapeutic and sentimental "healing" of those Americans among us who (for whatever reasons of their own) need such a moment to feel included as hopeful Americans-in-full-standing is a sufficient and necessary reason to elect Obama to be the leader of the Free World is still debatable, in my book. But last night's presentation made me better appreciate some of that sentiment I do not share--and I do not share it not because I am a white racist, but because I do not doubt the goodness of our country in this case.

All that said, Powerline has the blow-by-blow reaction to Obama's speech that pretty much agrees with my own.

On substance: Obama wants to promise the moon (including propping up the utterly stupid Social Security System and demonizing those who tried to privatize it for the good of the country and for the retirees). He plans to pay for all the wrong-headed, economy-killing mega-giveaways by bringing home our troops and increasing taxes on corporations and those bloodsucking slobs, "the rich." (The former course is unwise and the latter is unsustainable. Watch our economy go down the toilet.) He says he'll cut wasteful government programs, none of those, of course, being the cornucopia of special-interest favors he plans his big-government Santa to hand out. I'm sure his line-item veto and cruel executive whip will have an significant braking effect on Congressional spending.

God help us, the man is an economic and historic illiterate.

But as far as sentiment goes, evidently he hit a home run out of the park with Democrats last night. Good for him. That's why they have political conventions. And how far the U.S. has come since the 1908 election. Or, for that matter, since Nixon's damp upper lip in his televised debate lost him the Presidency to JFK. The political world's focus on televised style over textural substance has long since spiraled out of orbit. Now, to paraphrase Williams Carlos Williams, so much depends on fireworks, technology, staging, and nice teeth.

Next stop: on to nominate McCain.


Reading: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay. See especially the bit on "Popular Admiration of Great Thieves."

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