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Last night’s speech by Barack Obama, was the best of his presidency, if not his life.
To be sure, the audience’s occasionally odd bursts of applause left one wondering whether the “pep rally” atmosphere — rather than the expected solemn tone of a memorial service — was a welcome relief from Tucson’s intensity of recent days, or whether many of Barack Obama’s followers remain as devoted to their man as any cult members are. (See video here and read transcript here.)
Obama played to every part of the American electorate except, perhaps, the far left and their media lackeys.
He referenced “scripture” twice. He spent several paragraphs saying, one way or another, that we don’t know the killer’s motivation and that it is both unfair and unproductive to “lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do.”
He then turned to the idea of using the horrible events of last Saturday as a catalyst to re-examine “the manner in which we live our lives” and to “strive to be better in our private lives.” He called for “more civility in our public discourse” while re-emphasizing that “it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy.”
Glaringly absent was any, and I mean any, of Obama’s usual rhetoric regarding “enemies” or other war cries which often serve to rally his far-left, America- and conservative-hating base.
Rather than go further into analysis of the speech’s content, since much has been written about that already, allow me to refer you to conservative writer Phil Klein’s piece entitled “Obama’s Bullseye.”
Instead, I want to focus on two other things: The past and future of both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama.
My assertion that Sarah Palin’s Wednesday morning video address was not her best work was met by furious disagreement from some of her supporters at this site, with one of the more polite commenters saying that my note was “a swing and a miss.”
After Obama’s Wednesday evening address, and without any pleasure given that Barack Obama is the worst president of my lifetime and one of the worst presidents in our nation’s history, I say now you’ve seen a major league hitter make Sarah Palin look like she belongs in AA ball.
Palin’s speech, which struck me as flat and scripted when I first heard it, is doubly so in comparison with that given by our teleprompter-in-chief, no matter how much one prefers the politics of Alaska over the politics of Hawaii and Jakarta. Indeed, instead of just a teleprompter, he did, for the very first time, sound like the “president of all Americans.”
As an astute analyst of politics — one who is substantially more conservative than I am — said to me yesterday, “The contrast (between Obama and Palin) couldn’t be greater; the unifier versus the embittered one. In sum, she reinforced her base, but lost the rest of the country.”
I don’t dislike Sarah Palin and I’m not going to spend more time beating her up on this subject.
Even more interesting to me than Palin’s performance was the fury of her supporters at my relatively modest criticism of her. Their lack of openness to debate and their tendency to take criticism of Palin as a personal attack on each and every Palin fan struck me as mirroring some of the worst characteristics I usually find in leftists. In recent history on “our” side, the only thing that comes close is Ron Paul supporters, also a generally well-meaning but rabid group utterly devoted to their man and utterly closed to rational discussion of his weaknesses. (And I say that as someone who contributed to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign because despite the fact that his foreign policy views leave me cold, I really appreciate his consistent reference to the Constitution on matters of domestic policy.)
Secondly, and more importantly, is the question of what Obama’s tone last night might signify. One can’t read too much into one speech, particularly if it goes against the grain of all prior history of its speaker.
But if — and this is an “if” that I’ve long said I didn’t think would be the case — Barack Obama has decided, ala Bill Clinton, that re-election is more important than ideology, this speech was an excellent opportunity for him to reinforce the perception created among some during the debate over the extension of the Bush tax cuts that Obama might move slightly to the center during his second term.
I’m far from convinced that any Obama moderation will be sincere or long-lasting, but it is a low-risk strategy for him, especially so far from the next election, i.e. so far from the time when he really cares how motivated his left-wing kook base is. By making an appearance of unification and moderation, Obama and his pollsters will find out how open the great American middle of independent voters are to revising their low opinion of him — an opinion which was evidenced in the historic Republican gains in November’s elections.
If the political winds tell Obama that he probably wins reelection by playing to the middle and probably loses if he doesn’t, he will maintain this moderate persona. It will be up to conservatives and independents, with no help from the dominant liberal mass media, to either force him to support much more conservative policies than he normally would, i.e. to live up to his attempted moderate billing, or to expose him as the committed radical that he, in my view, is and always will be.
In any case, no matter how much we dislike Barack Obama and everything he believes, conservatives must remember that an Obama who acts like a moderate — even if he wishes he weren’t — is better for the country than Barack Obama 1.0. It’s a Barack Obama who will have to support essentially unobjectionable (or at least widely popular) conservative push-back on certain issues, whether aspects of the Dodd-Frank bill or the outrageous Form 1099 filing requirements of Obamacare, and who will be less able to demagogue during debates over cutting government spending.
Thus, while it gives me no pleasure to think about Barack Obama’s popularity going up, as it certainly will following his Tucson speech, we must keep in mind that this game of politics is about much more than just one election. If Obama understands that his popularity is up, that his re-election chances are improved, because he now appears to be more willing to work with, or at least not demonize, the loyal opposition, he’ll have to put up or shut up — at least if re-election is a primary goal of his. For now, that puts the nation (except perhaps for Sarah Palin and other Republican contenders for president) in a win-win situation, with a president who has all but boxed himself into a more docile rhetorical corner.