Go to previous post:
A spectre is haunting the DNC.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Not Really Blogging.

Our Admirable Sponsors

July 27, 2004

Has this guy got it, or what? I’m sure he’s got all kinds of feet made outta all kinds of clay, but if we had five more progressive politicians with this sort of gift for lifting us out of stupidity, we’d be living in a different and better country already.
obama.jpg If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper—that makes this country work. […]

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America.

There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into “red states” and “blue states”; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

If I were any more impressed I’d be packing my bags and moving to Illinois to vote for him this year. Glory and also hallelujah. Bring him on.

UPDATE: More. Just as good. [11:40 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Has this guy got it, or what?:

Ramar ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 12:06 AM:

I read the stories, I heard the rumors, I knew that Obama was supposed to be something special. And I wanted to believe, but deep down part of me was sure that no one could live up to that kind of hype.

And then he did. Good God.

political animal ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 12:20 AM:

Obama Obama, is there really light at the end of this tunnel. I am really enthusiastic about him and other progresseives. my question is, Does this message of one america, real compassion, social justice, and anti hateful politics strike home with everyone or just me? and if in fact an overwhelming amount of americans want this why can't we get it? I've never heard a candidate or politician talk about underfunding education or or sacrificing senior citizens to allow big corporations to profit, or a platform to have less americans with healthcare. If that is so then why does it happen? and how can we fix it? I am grateful for progressives and speakers like Obama, but i feel more must come from it then an inspiring speech. I am grateful for Obama lighting a fire of discourse, and i want it to go to the real issues and not let the discussion drift to does Obama overshadow kerry edwards. thank you for your time and I await your expertise.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 12:28 AM:

I think I have three politics memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life:

1: Working a full election day with my father, in the city we both love, in the neighborhood that is deep in both our bones. I understood then what local politics is, and I forgave him for any absence during my childhood.

2: Reading today's (7/27/02) AP wire story about my brother.

3: Watching that speech today.

As jealous as I am of (2), I'm more jealous that JRS heard (3) live, saw it live, and has probably had a chance by now to meet Mr. Obama.

Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 01:16 AM:

Can we borrow him over here? I've been reading extracts on Live Journals and thinking:yes; this is what I wanted the Labour Party to do. It's what I hope the Lib Dems will do (but fear they won't, alas). I'm often told I'm hopelessly idealistic for wanting simple straightforward changes, the way Obama lays them out, but for heaven's sake, why not?

I hope T Blair and Charlie Kennedy are paying attention over their cornflakes this morning.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 01:20 AM:

A very impressive speech.

Would it be spurious schadenfreude to imagine rank and file Republicans feeling sick to their stomach on hearing this guy, knowing that their convention will feature a roster of sanctimonious blowhards vetted by the movement conservatives?

Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 01:42 AM:

I first heard of Obama a few months ago, in a profile in the New Yorker that made him sound almost too good to be true. A guy who graduated at the top of his Harvard Law class and could have worked for any law firm in the country, but who chose to go to Chicago to represent plaintiffs in housing and employment discrimination cases, is someone I can hold in the highest respect. So I've been anticipating this speech -- and it was inspiring. (A little too much God for me, but nobody's perfect.)

I went down to our local library yesterday to check out Obama's book, because it's out of print and I figured after tonight there would be a bunch of holds on it.

I have to say, though, that one of the things I enjoyed most tonight was Teresa Heinz Kerry talking about the Hubble space telescope. What a way to an sf geek's heart!

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 02:19 AM:

Bleary eyed with emotion.

If he talks as well as he reads... he is gonna kick some serious ass.

If he can keep his tone, save his ideals, avoid the perils of compromise, for the sake of apparent progess; to get his back scratched later, if his rhetoric is matched by his actions, and he doesn't lose that turn of phrase...

He'll be president.

And I will be a very happy man.


Katherine ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 03:52 AM:

don't tell David Brooks, but he can do angry too:

"I don't oppose all wars ... What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

"What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Roves to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income ... to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone thru the worst month since the Great Depression.

"That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics .... "

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.
So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and Al Qaida, thru effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons in already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not - we will not - travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain."

PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 07:44 AM:

I heard him interviewed on NPR last night. Tight stuff, would love to hear more.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 08:13 AM:

Every word I read about or by him leaves me more impressed.

shsilver ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 09:03 AM:

It makes me proud that Obama is going to be my next senator.

eukabeuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 09:40 AM:

No need to come to Illinois to vote for Obama - I think we've got that taken care of! (Not that we're complacent - believe me, I'm driving my elderly south-side-of-Chicago neighbors to the polls again in November...) Just stick around enough years to vote for him for president.

Joy ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 09:56 AM:

For those who want to see the speech delivered, there's a video of it up at a Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/necn/

(The link's about 6 down on the main list at the moment.)

Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 10:12 AM:

That article in The New Yorker that Janet Lafler mentions above is available on their website at


Also, the Obama autobiography Dreams from My Father : A Story of Race and Inheritance will be re-issued in a paperback edition from Three Rivers Press at the end of August!

(who wore her girlie pink "Nutbar Conspiracy" tee the other night when she went with friends to see Fahrenheit 9/11)

Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 11:00 AM:

By the end of the speech I was thinking, "First black president of the United States of America."

Yeah, yeah, I know: one speech.

But that was one impressive speech. Terry, he talks at least as well as he reads.

ladygoat ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 01:24 PM:

Now I know why Ditka didn't run!

It was best political speech I've heard in a long time, and it really fills me with hope that there are still people we can vote for, instead of politicians we only vote against.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Don't undervalue the right to vote against the worse option.

It's great when you get the chance to vote for someone you thoroughly agree with. But the basic aim of democracy isn't to provide you with your personal perfect candidate. The basic aim of democracy is to enable thousands and millions of people who all disgree with one another to more or less get along.

I'm increasingly convinced that the success of modern American capitalism at providing us all with niche products perfectly suited to our individual quirky selves has led us to feel, vaguely but strongly, that something's the matter when the political candidates on offer don't include options as aptly customized to our desires as our own personal Macintosh. This is a delusion, an error, and a serious threat to real democracy.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 03:19 PM:

The year I graduated produced three members of the Clinton administration: James Rubin in State, speechwriter Mike Waldman, and our from-the-waitlist valedictorian, George Stephanopoulos.

It's nice to see that one kid a year us behind will probably outdo all three.

Remember, Patrick: being able to vote against something is valued only so long as you believe there is a chance the alternative will make it better. If you can delude yourself (or be deluded by others) that there is no difference between choices.

Elizabeth Donald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 04:21 PM:

No need to move to Illinois. Obama's opponent has self-destructed, and he's so overwhelmingly popular (even before the speech) that the Republican Party here cannot find an opponent. They've been turned down by everyone from Bush's former assistant drug czar to Mike Ditka. No one wants to be the cannon fodder.

I've met him and interviewed him. He's so off-the-charts brilliant that you feel smarter being in the room with him. He was touring an ethanol research plant, and while other politicians were mugging for the cameras, Obama was asking intelligent science questions of the plant operator. He seemed actively curious about the research being performed.

And so far, no mud has landed on him. At this point, the Republican Party in Illinois is curling up into a little ball and whimpering to itself.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 04:27 PM:

Uh, Ken, I think something has got to be missing from your last paragraph, some crucial word or phrase that would make it intelligible...

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Lis: I seem to be defective... perhaps I need to see it, or peharps it's like Hitler, or Lenin, I'd need to be there, in person.

I think I just read too well... I can hear, and feel, the cadence, the swelling, the places where it needs to be just above a conversational tone.

I listened to the speech, it didn't affect me the way reading his stuff has.

But the message... gives me chills.


Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2004, 09:20 AM:

Trying not to be too dog-in-the-manger here, but:

I've been seeing, here and elsewhere, the words "the first black President" used in reaction to Obama's speech.

I thought the speech was very good, too, and I certainly have the best wishes for the man. But jumping from a state-level candidate's speech to imagining him in the White House is, umm, quite a jump.

Possible? Maybe. But sometimes it takes more than talent, intelligence and charisma to get there. It frequently takes a set of improbable circumstance (like, say, a spectacular sex scandal on your opponent's part) and just plain dumb luck.

So let's take a breath, relax, and see how he does over the next few years before we get too hopeful about the man.

Besides, if you're as old as I am, you might remember that Julian Bond was supposed to be the first black President.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2004, 10:54 AM:

Bruce, obviously you're right on a literal level. Nobody can predict with any certainty whether this guy will ever be a contender for President. Or if he'll even want to be.

What people mean when they say he could be President is that they discern that his political and rhetorical skills are in that league. The fact that he's currently just a state senator makes that fact all the more piquant.

As I said in my first sentence, maybe he'll have feet of clay. (If reports are to be believed, he has a robustly healthy sense of self-regard.) Maybe he'll flame out. Maybe the Senate won't be optimal for his skills. Maybe he'll wind up rising to some other kind of office, like the Supreme Court. (He is, after all, a constitutional scholar.)

What I'm tempted to take issue with is the suggestion that people shouldn't get too hopeful. I personally think we need people and causes to be hopeful about; we've suffered more from a generalized lack of hope than we have from having particular hopes dashed. But I'm not sure I can muster a rigorous argument for a gut feeling of this sort.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2004, 11:07 AM:

Whoops, I'd better correct myself on this:

"Nobody can predict with any certainty whether this guy will ever be a contender for President. Or if he'll even want to be."

If this is to be believed (and I don't see why not; Kos is a straight shooter and in the know), there's no question that Obama's long-term ambitions extend to the very top. Well okay then.

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2004, 06:48 AM:

Patrick, in re I'm increasingly convinced that the success of modern American capitalism at providing us all with niche products perfectly suited to our individual quirky selves has led us to feel, vaguely but strongly, that something's the matter when the political candidates on offer don't include options as aptly customized to our desires as our own personal Macintosh. This is a delusion, an error, and a serious threat to real democracy.

I don't hear people saying "I like the candidate, but I don't agree on a few issues, so I'm disgusted." Instead, it's more a matter of "I don't see any candidates who even come close to the political views I want".

Frex, I fairly frequently hear people say that they want candidates who'll support individual liberty and a safety net. I haven't heard of any candidate or party which favors that combination.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2004, 06:21 PM:

But have you seen the news? The Republicans have got Alan Keyes (!) to oppose him! (Who is from Maryland, but, hey, one of our senators is Hillary, so what can we say?) But...Alan Keyes! Should be a hell of a race...

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Alan Keyes, the man described by Michael Lewis as "the candidate most likely to douse himself with gasoline and light a match."

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:01 PM:

Alan Keyes, the only one they could find to campaign for a guaranteed loss.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:20 PM:

I tend to agree with whoever it was who speculated that there's probably method to this madness. Keyes doesn't have a hope of winning, and it would actually be terrible for the national Republican Party if he did. That's not the idea. The real hope is that Keyes will manage to provoke Obama into saying something the GOP can use against him in years to come.

Keyes is crazy, and often entertainingly so, but he's not entirely without skills, and he's proved highly user-friendly in the past.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 02:36 PM:

That would make more sense than the "they're throwing him out of the troika to the wolves because he's utterly worthless" theory. I don't think it's going to work on Obama, though.

If I were Barack Obama, I'd absolutely ignore Keyes, and if asked about him by reporters, just laugh and say nothing. But I'm not a politician, and perhaps that's part of why.

Scott Drone-Silvers ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 06:30 PM:

I had the very great pleasure of listening to Mr. Obama at a rally for the county Democratic organization (which was held at the college that I work at). He IS the real deal. I mean real is the best sense, too - not pretentious, not bombastic, just a guy. A guy who happens to be ethical, moral, and genuinely concerned - not to mention a guy who isn't afraid to tell us that it is not just up to him to change things, but up to ALL of us.

BTW, a great quote relative to Alan Keyes' entry into the Senate race:

"And I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."

-Alan Keyes, 2000

I guess it's OK to be a hypocrite when you're a Republican...

Calimac ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:12 PM:

But Scott, you underestimate the depth of Republican hypocrisy. Remember, these are the guys who are now claiming that favorable military discharges are no proof of having done one's duty, and that we shouldn't use electronic voting because the opposition might steal the election.

Keyes is saying that it's OK for him "to go into a state he doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there," because he's not using it as part of a nefarious plot to run for president.

Remember, this is a guy who already has run for president twice, without letting the fact that he held no office at all stop him; nor does the fact that Hillary has not run for president seem to have made much of an impression.

Indeed, I have seen it argued that Hillary's failure to run for president in either 2000 or 2004 is evidence for her nefarious plot to run in 2008, as if a plan to run in 2008 (if there is one) is nefarious.

I've also seen Republicans say it's OK because Keyes was drafted by the party. Never mind that Hillary was similarly drafted by major figures who wanted her to run, and then won a primary which proved she was wanted. Never mind also that no caveats about drafts were part of Keyes' original statement. And never mind that the Clintons were moving to Westchester anyway, regardless of whether Hillary ran or not. I've seen no claims that Keyes was planning to move to Calumet City, or wherever it is he's establishing residence, anyway.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2004, 10:56 PM:

Looks like Obama is too smart to rise to Keyes’s bait:

A day after jumping into the Illinois Senate race, two-time presidential hopeful Alan Keyes ripped into Democratic rival Barack Obama, saying his views on abortion are "the slaveholder's position." [...] Asked specifically about the phrase "slaveholder's position," Obama said Keyes "should look to members of his own party to see if that's appropriate if he's going to use that kind of language."