All in all, this speech dealt with race more honestly than I’ve ever heard the topic discussed by a politician. But it was too long. He should have cut the entire section where he quotes from his own book, Dreams from My Father. The strength here wasn’t really Obama’s recounting of his own life, but his framing of the role of race in American history and in our society today.
This was as good a job as anyone could have done in these circumstances, and as impressive and intelligent a speech as I have heard in a very long time. People thought that Mitt Romney’s speech would be the counterpart to John Kennedy’s famous speech about his faith to the Houston ministers in 1960. No. This was.
It was in many respects excellent. I thought the first third of the speech was not so good in that that he offered up too much stark racial context before he got to the part about addressing Wright. But once he got wound up, he spoke about as candidly and eloquently about race as one could hope of a politician.
Now that said, I think the speech could be a disaster. Race isn’t easy to address — it required Obama to be extremely nuanced and offer up very complex arguments. Very few people are actually going to watch or read this speech all the way through. I’m not sure there’s any ten second takeaways from the speech that will be replayed on cable news that will pacify voters or give a sense of what the speech was really about.
Brilliant, beautiful, inspiring–but perhaps not what crass electoral politics demanded of him.