What I expected to see this morning was fine political stagecraft from a fine performer.
I read the text of the speech, first, since it was available, first. I was very impressed -- it was masterfully constructed -- but in a couple of places the nuances of tone and lilt, of rhythm and restraint, would be critical. I had to see his delivery.
When the video came out, I listened once in the morning, then again in the afternoon.
He nailed it. A near-perfect performance. There hasn't been one of these people before. Not in reliably-recorded history.
Gentle readers, we didn't just witness a man standing on the shoulders of giants, grand-standing in front of the footlights or aping some long-dead icon we've woven into larger-than-life status. What I saw this morning and all day today was the enfoldment and evolution of a miraculous human individual the likes of which we neither deserve, nor has anyone made plans to accomodate, in the present political environment.
He wasn't just good. He wasn't just understated. He was astonishly understated and amazingly cool under an incredible pressure to perform.
So much so that Hillary couldn't resist her dismissing the speech with faint praise. "I'm glad he gave it," or words to that effect. Whatever. Tomorrow one of the Clintons will find a way to martyr themselves with victimization and sad tales of derry-do gone awry. Been there, done that. Still paying for the teeshirt...and the interest rate just tripled.
Ladies and gentlemen, the story is this speech in the context of a campaign against a machine hell-bent to win or scorch the Earth trying. And, as everyone by now realizes, if Hillary does try to win, it will cause an extinction-level event in the Democratic party. The woman is driven to destroy herself and the country that made her possible in the first place. The low self esteem alluded to ever-so-delicately by Obama during his speech painted Hillary as the sad, pathetic victim she has always strived to be. And, as a President, she would work very, very hard at being a victim on the grandest of all possible scales.
This strategy may have worked in the days when the budget deficit ranged in the tens of billions of dollars. Unfortunately the deficit is in the tens of trillions of dollars, several orders of magnitude beyond where anyone can hear, much less care about, who is whining on top of the stack of debt amassed in the last seven years.
Barak Obama is absolutely spot-on: being a victim is a zero-sum game where one attempts to beg for mercy from a reflection of one's own need for vengeance and retribution, at once denied and twice removed. We author our own drama, seek for the "Oscar" and then sulk away in envy when someone else takes home a trophy not worth owning.
Obama is clearly the kind of man Martin Luther King Jr had in mind when he envisioned a black American judged squarely, and fairly, on the content of his character. So while Obama stands on the shoulders of the giants who preceded him -- Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those giants -- he shows every indication of transcending every legacy we've become familiar with. This is a man who will leave a legacy larger than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and, perhaps, even Abraham Lincoln himself. He really is that good.
Randi Rhodes stopped short of this sort of, "over the top," prediction for the remarkable human being that is Barak Obama, and this restraint in light of her earlier white racist mutterings directed at his campaign is also disappointing to me. But I have been listening to Randi for a while now and I do not believe she is a person who would go out their way to behave in an overtly racist manner. Hers is the racism that is covert and lies beneath the surface, gaining its power from the sheer number of others who "feel" or "sense" when something is out of accord in their reality.
The problem with Randi and my perception of her is that we are both responding, or reacting, to the presence in the body politic of human greatness that neither Randi, nor I, ever expected to see darken the doors of the West Wing ever again. We both fell in love with Bill Clinton, and at least one of us regrets that mistake. But I think both of us have been unwilling or unable to say what we really think.
We think this guy is for real. We still believe that human greatness amidst a wasteland of mediocrity is still possible. We have seen glimpses of it in different places and at different times, but we have become resigned to the reality that no one human could ever possess so many positive traits in a single place at once.
But there he is. Rising out of a cultural landscape that virtually requires that you be "blackmailable" before even thinking of gaining an entrance to the inner circles of power comes a man who truly understands what it means to transcend both white and black American experiences.
This kind of understanding I recognize from my own personal experience of wrestling with demons of various shapes, sizes and chemical compositions. One can not fake or act as if they have transcended a particularly difficult experience. But those who have never transcended the view of the world handed to them by their parents, which means most Americans, will not believe or understand the nature of the individual standing before them.