There’s a lot of anticipation for Barack Obama’s late-starting and now just-underway speech on race. Some are expecting him to hit it out of the park. The embargoed copy of the speech certainly promises some compelling, even lyrical language. It should be well-received.
And yet, overall, even if Obama hits a home run, can this entire fortnight—which began with Geraldine Ferraro’s comments, was ramped up by all the Rev. Jeremiah Wright YouTube video releases, crescendos today, and will still resonate for a few more days if not weeks—possibly be judged a win for Obama? I doubt it, because all this controversy has done is reinforce that Obama is, as our own Paul Waldman predicts he will be incessantly depicted by his enemies, as “the Other.” You can already see, in the comments from people like MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan, almost delight in pointing out that he and people like Wright are, well, just “different”—meaning, of course, different from the white majority.
Incidentally: If you want to talk about contrasts, it’s amazing that on the same network featuring Buchanan, Sally Quinn did a great job this morning, as the networks were killing time waiting for Obama to arrive on stage, pointing out all the incendiary and unacceptable statements that preachers from Jesse Jackson to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell to Billy Graham, have made over the years…and the absence of any real expectation that the white politicians who relied on their support give a major speech denouncing them and reflecting on race or religion in American politics.