Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Thoughts on Obama's Speech

I wasn't going to but I did end up watching Obama's speech in real time last night. I agree with most everyone that it was excellent, as good as his race speech and the 2004 DNC keynote address. I did think the cheering was a bit much but I got used to it and it felt good. There's no right way to grieve, so all the more power to them. I was just amazed there were that many people cheering Obama's words in red state Arizona.

I've been trying to figure out if I have anything worthwhile to say about it. Andrew Sullivan collects various reactions to Obama's speech and one of his readers put it very eloquently.

I wanted to ignore Palin's speech too but while reading my rss feeds I saw a lot about it. Obama made me feel bad for posting what I thought were the better comments about it.

I watched a fair amount of MSNBC afterwards and it seemed that some didn't know what to say, Maddow was rather factual about it all, practically doing just play-by-play. A few times people got to comparing Palin to Obama and pointing out that he rose to the occasion and showed true leadership and she didn't. Fair enough but it got me thinking even more about why the pundits spent the day talking about her. Because they're paid to be on the air talking and she's been deemed newsworthy because some people listen to her.

I'd like to go on about what I think about that, but then I keep thinking about Obama. He didn't do any of that. He led by example and spoke about the people who were injured, the heroes of the day and what we should be doing in the future. The thing he said that most resonated with me that I keep going back to was this:

"And in Christina -- in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle."

"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud."

"She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations."

I really think that was brilliant. Without being specific about what we should do he phrased it in such a way that everyone can relate to and imagine that they aren't doing enough. He set an unachievable goal that we can all feel good about striving for.

I want to go on with how our politics have become polarized. Sure this week the Republicans kept saying both sides are too extreme but I still don't think that's true. I still don't think both sides are equally bad. Media Matters details three previous cases where Beck's Incendiary Rhetoric Has Motivated Threats, Assassination Attempts. Tell me the equivalent on the left? I have called Bush and Cheney war criminals for lying about reasons to go to war with Iraq. I think that's a logical conclusion. I wanted trials not insurrection which also seems pretty reasonable to me. But there I go again.

I honestly do think that Limbaugh and Beck are just playing characters and don't believe the lies they spew and don't care if their listeners do. I think Palin believes them. Sure the Republicans think their opinions are reasonable too. As Jon Stewart was trying to point out with Tim Pawlenty they do seem to react more extremely. You aren't just wrong you're treasonous. Kevin Drum thinks it's because the right takes things more personally. I don't know

But there I go again. I keep hearing Obama not talk about such things. We should instead talk about how to solve problems. But I don't see him doing that much either. I don't see him making a case that to get the economy moving forward and to cut our dependence on oil and to stop climate change we should build a new energy industry. He's mentioned it a little but he hasn't made the case, certainly not enough to convince anyone who wasn't already convinced. And how will he do that when the right thinks climate change is a hoax and apologizes to BP? Ok, the Republicans won the House, but did they have to appoint one of the biggest climate change deniers chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Economy? How do you get past that?

The health care bill passed via some horrendous back room deals and party line votes. The Democrats didn't convince anyone they were right. Instead lies about death panels won the debate. How do you beat that? Not with silence. Another Andrew Sullivan reader points out that last night Obama called for "civil and honest public discourse."

I hope we can have that. I hope both sides provide it. But what do we do if one side fails to do so? My instinct has been to call them out on it, to fight lies with the truth. The difference between the effectiveness of Obama's speech last night and all the pundits talking about Palin during the day makes me question that. I think the answer is that there's a difference between being effective in a speech and in governing and Obama's presidency up to now proves that point.

I have always welcomed a reasoned debate on policy. I keep hoping the right will present a reasonable conservative alternative and we can compromise. But I honestly (and civilly) haven't see it yet. Their numbers don't add up on healthcare or the economy. They don't list any significant program they'd cut while also cutting taxes to reduce the deficit. They say Democrats are cutting billions from Medicare but neglect to say to say it's from the inefficient Medicare Advantage program (which is a public subsidy of private outsourcing). We had 8 years of cutting taxes and it didn't produce jobs, why will it now? Trickle down is as discredited as Andrew Wakefield.

Sigh. Christina wouldn't like this very much. I wish I knew how to satisfy her.


kim said...

I agree with your comment "My instinct has been to call them out on it, to fight lies with the truth." but it may not help. I had to google it but I remember this article arguing otherwise. "How facts backfire"

Howard said...

I think I remember that article. It's enough to make a cynic out of you. :)