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Two Quickie Thoughts About The Obama Speech

1.) I thought the nod at the conservative intellectual's critique of welfare policy was very shrewd. As in: "A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families--a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened." Obama was essentially saying to conservative elites, "You can't exactly be surprised when black pathologies seep out into the open. You're the same people who said public policy had been nurturing those pathologies." I'm not sure conservatives will be won over by this, but it could make them stop and say, "Okay, good point."

2.) Even if you disagree with the logic of the speech, I think the basic emotional case was sound. It's a case Obama often makes when he talks about race and his candidacy in general, but which he made pretty explicitly here:

For we have a choice in this country.  We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.  We can tackle race only as spectacle -as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.  ...

We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction.  And then another one.  And then another one.  And nothing will change. 
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” ... This time we want to reject the cynicism ...

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. 

There are clearly lots of people still weirded out by those Wright videos. There aren't many people who, when told you believe they're open-minded and reasonable and big-hearted, will respond by thinking, "You're wrong. I'm actually a petty and cynical SOB."

--Noam Scheiber