Analysts react to the Obama speech

Reading time 5 min.

Reactions after the Obama Philadelphia speech “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union” are diverse. While the speech has drawn some very positive analysis from many political analysts others have painted a rather sarcastic picture. Below are brief analysis from political analysts and journalists, culled from some of the major US news and information sources.

Philadelphia Inquirer
Sen. Obama’s Speech on Race… Brilliant!

With his brilliant speech on race relations yesterday at the National Constitution Center, Barack Obama showed why his campaign for president has the aura of a mission.

Few candidates face a test of the magnitude that Obama confronted in addressing the racially divisive remarks of his church’s former pastor. “God damn America” for its racism, was among the more outrageous statements made by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. If Obama defended Wright’s remarks, he surely would have lost support. But if the Illinois senator rejected Wright, he could have been seen as throwing overboard a longtime father figure for the sake of political expediency. Instead, Obama did neither. He condemned the sins but embraced the sinner. And he spoke with such grace and candor about America’s need to overcome racial divisions that his own political calculations seemed inconsequential…Speaking to the concerns of whites and blacks had a powerful effect. Obama was masterful in arguing that overcoming racial divisions will make it easier for this nation to work on solutions to health care, the economy, and the war in Iraq.

CNN analysts mainly agreed that Obama’s speech achieved a goal

Wolf Blitzer
“The Situation Room”

It is not going to end the criticism by any means. People are now going to dissect word by word, sentence by sentence, this speech. And critics will find plenty to disagree with in the speech, but i think he addressed it head-on, and it’s an excellent start in trying to move beyond the issue.

Gloria Borger
political analyst

… He told us that he spent his entire life trying to overcome this kind of racial anger and resentment, even from his own grandmother… I think what se saw … was somebody who really hit the mark and did not shy away from answering all the questions we’ve been asking… Politically, i believe that he had to do it now.

Candy Crowley
senior political correspondent

He took an incident that had huge potential to derail him and put it in a much larger picture and said, we can choose here. We can go down this road, or we can take the high road”… I think he tried to get them to look at what may come out in the future and say, “we’ve been there, we’ve done that, i’ve heard him. Let’s move on. This isn’t what’s important”.

Suzanne Malveaux
political correspondent

What really changed in this room was when he turned the corner and became personal, specifically when he talked about his own family background, his own experience and the reason why it is he felt he cannot reject his own white grandmother who said some things that he felt were offensive.

Obama Merely Changes The Subject

Rather than break ties with his demagogic, anti-American pastor, Barack Obama used a speech on race to excuse his behavior and sweep the controversy under the rug. Passing the buck is not very presidential…

But Obama’s recent troubles, which this much-hyped speech was supposed to put past him, are not about race relations. They’re about one churchman who happens to be black, whose views from the pulpit are repugnant and from whom Obama doesn’t seem to have the guts to distance himself.

Mark Davis The Mark Davis Show on ABC Radio

My wish is to give Mr. Obama credit and benefit of the doubt as the first black presidential candidate striving to move beyond the 1960s. But if he is to continue to earn such goodwill, he must risk alienating some in his base by delivering only rejection, and not excuses, for hate speech from those he loves.

Robert Tracinski
editor of The Intellectual Activist and

He responded by giving a speech yesterday on the problem of race in America. Unfortunately, it was a good speech–a very good speech, in fact. Obama’s delivery, I thought, was a little flat; he sounded too much like a man reading a script, rather than someone opening up about his deepest convictions. But the content of the speech was probably the best he could possibly have come up with in his current predicament.

First, it will silence the criticism from much of the mainstream media, which is likely to praise his speech, present sympathetic excerpts, and take Obama’s reassurances at face value. There is a good chance that they will henceforth regard references to the Reverend Wright as unfair, as attempts to smear Obama through “guilt by association”–precisely the defense Obama has lamely been attempting to erect. And so the Reverend Wright will once again disappear from the mainstream media coverage of the election.

Second, this speech will staunch some of Obama’s losses among Democratic voters. A mass desertion of disillusioned Obama supporters, combined with a complete loss by Obama of the white vote, is the only thing that could give Hillary Clinton the huge margins of victory she would need in the remaining primaries to make up her deficit in pledged delegates. And only by reducing or eliminating that lead and showing that she has powerful momentum late in the contest can she convince the superdelegates to take the nomination away from Obama. After this speech, that once again looks impossible, so Barack Obama is once again the clear presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

The New York Times

In many ways, Barack Obama’s speech on race was momentous and edifying.You could tell it was personal, that he had worked hard on it, all weekend and into the wee hours Tuesday. Overriding aides who objected to putting race center stage, he addressed a painful, difficult subject straightforwardly with a subtlety and decency rare in American politics…Unlike what the Clintons did to Lani Guinier, responding to her radical racial ideas by throwing her under the bus, Obama went to great pains to honor the human dimension of his relationship with his politically threatening “old uncle,” as he calls him…He should be congratulated on the disappearance of the pedestal. Leaders don’t need to be messiahs…Gray is a welcome relief from black and white.

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