Monday, January 28, 2008


Thanks to my frequent visitors from Alaska, including Wasilla (home of Gov. Sarah Palin), and Seward, Eagle River, Kodiak, Juneau, Ft. Wainwright, and Elmendorf AFB, where my brother served in the 1960s, as well as Jefferson, MD, Hobbs, NM, Harrisburg, PA, Everett, WA, Olympia, WA, Pittsburgh, PA, Mckeesport, PA, Wilmington, DE, Columbia, SC, Charlotte, NC, Gainesville, FL, Detroit, MI, UNIVERSITY CENTER (DELTA), MI, Lawrence, KS, San Bernadino, CA, Palo Alto, CA, San Mateo, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Canonsburg, PA, Queensland, Australia, Houston, TX, Vienna, VA, Durham, NC, Rome, GA (I used to live in Athens) Hamilton, Ontario, and various other places around the world. Keep coming back. Please stick with me until the election of 2008. Thanks also to Malia from Hawaii from chalking up a record number of "Frequent Visitor Miles." Early this week (perhaps Tuesday) I'll write about "Obama's 'R" Word -- Rhetoric." I believe Barack Obama is in one sense a great candidate but in a deeper sense is a political windbag.

And two more today from the "big Ws," Winnipeg, Manitoba and Wappingers Falls, New York. Is there really a town called BORING, OR?

In a recent Op Ed piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, local activist Tim Tuinstra said the following: "As we work our way through the 2008 elections, the temptation will be great to be swept away by grand rhetoric and glib assumptions. One thing to count on is that political consultants will try to have the candidates fire up their base voters with tried-and-true propaganda."

Barack Obama is a master of "grand rhetoric and glib assumptions." One of CNN's "panel of experts" said of the Illinois Senator's SC victory remarks that they constituted "one of the greatest speeches in American history."

Nope. Here's the test for CNN's overblown praise. Do you remember one thing Obama said? That is, did any of his phrases resonate enough so that they would be unforgettable. Statements by Lincoln ("the world will little note nor long remember what we say here"), FDR ("a day that will live in infamy"), JFK ("we will never negotiate out of fear"), Reagan ("Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall!"). With Obama, we have a long string of "elevated" words, but nothing that embeds itself in memory. As MacBeth puts it, "A tale full of sound and fury . . . signifying nothing."

Obama said that he wants to get away from the race-and-gender squabble, one orchestrated mainly by the Clintons in their struggle to achieve a co-presidency. He wants to discuss the "issues" and the "differences" between him and Hillary Clinton. However, both Mrs. Clinton and Senator Obama are standard-issue Democrats.

To quote an unsavory Democrat from an earlier era (George Wallace), with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, "there's not a dimes worth of difference." They don't discuss the "issues" because they don't really differ on them.

Both candidates want to redistribute income from those who earn it to those don't -- i.e., to their base of supporters. Their vision, such as it is, consists of nothing more than the politics of envy. Obama and Clinton look out at America and they see a horde of people, solid Democrats, chanting not "We want change," but rather "We want dollars." They see people who have more than they do, and they look to Clinton and Obama to redress that grievance.

When Obama talks about wanting the vote of Independents -- and even Republicans -- his inner meaning is clear. He's saying that SC proves he has the vote of Black people -- 81% of them. The talk about unity is really a code word for saying he wants the votes of more White people, only 24% of whom voted for him in South Carolina. He also wants the votes of Latinos, most of whom current favor his opponent.

Is this too cynical? After all, Obama is clearly a significant candidate. He has an attractive, energetic wife and two beautiful daughters. He also reminds us that sermons in Black churches generally are much superior to those in White churches.

However, when trying to evaluate Barack Obama as a human being, one yearns for Dame Edith Asquith. She's the one who, when asked what she thought of Oakland, CA, said: "There's no there . . . there." The same is true of Obama, the speechifier: There's no there . . . there. There's a lot of happy talk about what America could be if only it had a President Barack Obama.

Earlier I asked if anyone could remember anything Obama said in his "historic" South Carolina remarks. I doubt I'll get many takers. It was a speech that was all icing and no cake. The audience loved it, perhaps they were looking for style over substance.

Caroline Kennedy recently told us that Obama reminds us of her father. Actually, he reminds people like her of the "JFK Myth," not the JFK reality. John F. Kennedy was a man who delivered inspiring speeches, all of them written by others (Ted Sorenson and Richard Goodwin). We remember what JKF said but not much of what he did.

Why is that? Because John F. Kennedy didn't actually do much, aside from two things: (1) almost get us into a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis; (2) engage the country in the Vietnam War. In her ringing endorsement of Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy left out those parts.


Christopher said...

I've been writing and will do a full piece later about the Obama-Kennedy connection. Kennedy was not a popular guy or a beloved figure until after his death, in which he achieved "sainthood" after death. He came from a very hotly contested election that Nixon had the decency to let go of. He was a lazy senator (something he has in common with Obama) and made huge foreign policy mistakes (what could have been distracting him???). Regardless while I don't hate Kennedy, it would be nice if actual reality could enter the discussion now and then.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Christopher: Kennedy was a lousy President, but he "looked great." He didn't get much legislation through, and he was a chronic adulterer, but the media loved him. Yes, he's a lot like Obama.