Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama's Speeches: Extraordinary or Contemptible?

Yesterday, May 21, 2009, President Obama gave a speech on terrorism in which he attacked the previous administration and set the face of his team against "torture."

Conservatives are enraged. Mark Steyn called it "revolting and contemptible" on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

Over at The Atlantic James Fallows is still excited about the president's speech at Notre Dame last Sunday, "another extraordinary performance" to rank with the race speech in 2008, the Prague speech on nuclear weapons, and the Georgetown speech on long-term economic policy.
What made these presentations extraordinary was not any single phrase or sentence, nor any paragraph-long flight of fine language... Instead the power of those speeches comes from the quality of their thought -- from the ideas and truths the speaker is trying to grapple with:

It goes without saying that conservatives don't think that way at all. Hugh Hewitt comments on a central paragraph of the president's terrorism speech:

BHO: All too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight. But all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us, Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens, fell silent. HH: Mark Steyn, this is a deeply dishonest statement. It lacks the specificity that would allow people to rebut it, and it is an attempt to give himself credit for that which he does not deserve, the national security success of the last eight years, and to diminish that success.

You can see what is going on here. Liberals love the rhetoric that the president is using. They do it themselves all the time, distancing themselves morally from the actions of the US government and the American people. They do it on Pearl Harbor, on Hiroshima, on Vietnam, and Iraq.

For conservatives, this distancing is outrageous, for it supposes that liberals are helpless victims, borne along by the tide of governmental malfeasance. Conservatives cannot accept that. Conservatives live lives in which they are knocked upside the head by liberal political power every day. Whaddya mean, helpless victim?

But for liberals like James Fallows and your liberal friend next door, President Obama's rhetoric is the very essence of moral inquiry. It is exhilarating to live in a time when you can listen to a president who says such wise things. I remember a liberal friend who was utterly bewitched by Candidate Obama's race speech in 2008--in the week before Obama threw Reverend Wright under the bus.

It seems to me that there is a fundamental question here. Liberals and conservatives can't both be right about President Obama. Someone is living a fantasy here, and someone is going to get a nasty rendezvous with reality.

Well, it ain't gonna be me! But you never know. Maybe we conservatives are so blinded by our "hate" that we can't see reality. Or maybe not.

But here's a reality check. The point about President Obama is not that he is a left-wing radical. Maybe he is' maybe he isn't. The point is that he is saying and doing exactly what mainstream liberals want him to say and do.

We know that Obama's politics causes Obama Derangement Syndrome in conservatives. The question is: what do moderates, particularly moderate women think. And what will they think in 2010 and 2012?

That is the question.

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