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Since "hope" is central to his message, acknowledging eventual failure in his campaign or inaugural speeches would undermine that just a little bit, don't you think?

Obama is a capital-H historical figure, and his acknowledgment and understanding of this is refreshing, in my opinion. Shit, after the last 8 years, Obama's understanding of any history, much less his own place in it, is refreshing.

Posted by Mahtli69 on January 21, 2009 at 5:48 PM · Report this
> the hero-worship around Obama has always turned me off.

Maybe it's because you were a Hillary supporter.

> The idea of worshiping a politician isn't just unpalatable to me, it's foreign

LOL, sure didn't seem that way when you were a during the primary season. You we're fawning over her left and right. Seemed like every day there was some new Slog post by ECB about how Obama sux and Hillary was #1.

Looks like ECB is still upset that Hillary got her ass handed to her by Obama and the fine voters of this land.
Posted by The Baconator on January 21, 2009 at 5:49 PM · Report this
Obama's speech is great. Because it speaks to universal values and narratives and isn't a wonky list of programs he will fight for. It's far more unifying than that. And he has synthesized the entire GOP critique (govt. as irresponsible) and left critique (greedy capitalist corps. are irresponsible, so is Rummy, etc.) by saying:

we should all be responsible.

we should put away childish things -- the best one word summation of what's wrong with Bush and the republicans I've ever heard. And here's why it's even greater: in that phrase you have room to acknowledge and start moving away from perceived "liberal" or Democratic beliefs that are childish, too, or Democratic programs that just don't work. Like when he told the black kids to pull their pants up and not show their underwear.

And btw he has unified/transcended the Lakoff idiotic division between "daddy party" (GOP) and mommy party (D's) to create one big adult party.

You don't need a speech that promises the moon or goes into the details of the 297456 programs the stimulus package will fund. You needed a speech that says '"play time is over, the adults are back in charge, and we, the collective we, have to return to responsibility."

He's a far better leader, so far, than I thought he would be. There isn't one sound bite that stands out but together the tone and purpose and new direction do lift us up into a new plane that isn't about the older divisions.

So fuck yeah it's an A++ speech.

Capisce, y'all?

Posted by PCobamatron on January 21, 2009 at 6:16 PM · Report this
"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things."


An astute observer in my life opined that America is, after merely 250 years of existence, of a juvenile character -- particularly noticeable when acting on the world stage. The USA must always be right, must always win, it will get violent on a whim, it is inconsistant, plays dangerous games, and doesn't adhere to a lucid morality.

I agree with you, Erica, "cult of personality" hero worship ends in dissatisfaction and --in the end-- Obama is a politician, making political decisions (cf. rick warren), and is now surrounded by enormous forces over which he has little actual control.

The inertia behind the divergent desires of corporate power, military power, intelligence community power, popular power, as well as the strengths of the nations we deal with, is vast. One man cannot solve the problems they present, and he said as much.

In several senses Obama's work is already done:
He was elected President, and took office. Regardless of what happens now, that fundamentally changes black-white relations on the street ... down here where we are. Blacks can straighten their backs and say, yo, respect now, my brother's in the White House. Whites can relax, for once, and step back (cede a bit of power, perhaps), and show respect to all.

No matter what happens, no matter how Obama 'fails' us --and he will fail many people in many ways-- he has introduced a unique balancing of power between people.

The work to be done is not only up there at his level, but so much more is down here, on street level. He has opened a window for us that we must now step through, escape the rigid confines of our personal politics and begin to work on new relations with all brothers and sisters across the globe.

Additionally, Obama has shown in speech, as well as in character and presence, the ability to reframe the arguments we've been having for the last 20+ years:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works...

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

We have a president who can speak eloquently for 20 minutes without notes. Who can extemporaneously argue detailed points. Who actually addresses real issues without resorting to obfuscatory sound-bite politics.

I personally don't think Obama is all that and a bag of chips. He is STILL the newly ascendant icon of an enormous power structure, and knows how to scratch backs rather well. The proof is in the pudding, and we'll see if the walk matches the talk.

But the proof is also in your pudding, does your walk match your talk, and if it doesn't will you admit it and take action?

He also has intelligence that has been lacking for a full generation, and hopefully that intelligence will permeate the level of national debate, quieting the nattering plastic newsheads who pump emotionalism as 'information', and revealing the wingnuts of any persuasion as the parodies they are, (cf. rick warren, who looked a foolish hypocrite during his speech).

Prez. Obama is not the saviour, not the solution, not any salvation. But he represents an opportunity for all of us to step up our game. Step up to responsibility and action.
Posted by treacle on January 21, 2009 at 6:23 PM · Report this
i think the "hero-worship" surrounding obama was mostly a straw-man construct fabricated by people who want[ed] to minimize his popularity and marginalize his fans. i don't see his "followers" as any more starry-eyed than those of other politicians. you don't have to look to hard to find people who have equally creepy devotion to say, the clintons, or reagan -- the 'wingers LOVE reagan. some people are just a little nutty, but that's not the politician's fault.
Posted by brandon on January 21, 2009 at 6:26 PM · Report this
The speech could have used more structure and narrative, but the Bush slamming right there in front of Bush more than made up for any weaknesses.
Posted by kinaidos on January 21, 2009 at 6:47 PM · Report this
I'm still overwhelmed by not being lied to 24/7/365 by a President.

So that makes it an A+ in my book.

A lot has to do with how he gives speeches - mannerisms, speech patterns, etc - maybe if one just read it, it might not be as powerful.

But right now, it's what we need.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 21, 2009 at 6:58 PM · Report this
my sentiments exactly, but we have to remember that at the end of the day Obama is, you know, a politician
Posted by maninjapan on January 21, 2009 at 7:13 PM · Report this
I think a lot of young people were swept up in the hero worship of Obama because he's so vastly different from what we are used to in our leaders. (Maybe some older people were swept up in it too, but I think it was an under 30 phenom.) Especially voters like me who came of age during the Bush years, we've only known lies and deceipt. When you only know loathing of a leader, it's easy to turn to worship when someone of Obama's caliber shows up.
I was for Hillary slightly more than Obama during the primary because I refused to get swept up in the hysteria of this young politician. But I'm a cynic. I expect to be disappointed. I think Obama is a very sincere man, and the only time I cried yesterday was when he was addressing the soldiers and families at the Commander-In-Chief Ball because I realized I finally am proud to call my President, Commander-In-Chief. I was happy all day, but for some reason I only let myself get swept up during his interaction with soldiers.
I think most people let themselves get swept up in the Obama-mania because they really want to believe. We want to be proud of our leader, and his speech yesterday showed that we do have an intelligent president who we can look up to. That we're free to believe again.
But I'm still holding my breath for DADT and DOMA. If he screws that up, I might loose my hope for politics forever.
Posted by Enigma on January 21, 2009 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Set aside childish things? Childishness is the reason I read your blog most of the time. Corinthians can go suck it when I escape into Slog.
Posted by eric burnett on January 21, 2009 at 7:39 PM · Report this
We are a young nation? Is that why Gallileo was offered a chair at harvard, why the constitution was ratified 100 years before the unification of Italy or Germany and why Oscar Wilde said "The youth of America is their oldest tradition" more than a century ago?
Posted by andrew on January 21, 2009 at 8:29 PM · Report this
My favorite part: "for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

The blood of our enemies shall run in the streets!

Speaking of which, did you notice Warren's reference to the apocalypse?: "may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you."

See you in Jerusalem!
Posted by Trevor on January 21, 2009 at 8:40 PM · Report this
I can admire political leaders—I admire Obama—but I know they'll always let me down. I've always been a little cold to Obama because I feel he's never really acknowledged this—never owned his own fallibility, the fact that he will inevitably let his followers down.

You know, I try to defend you on occasion because I really like your reporting on transit - my issue of choice - and I think it's childish for other Sloggers to repeatedly respond in knee-jerk fashion to your posts just because you were an ardent Hillary supporter.

That said, you can make my job a lot easer by not being a pair of self-righteous fucking clown shoes. Here's text from his victory speech:
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

I can't even count on both hands and feet how many time the man has said similar things. From yesterday's speech, even:
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met.

Combine that with:
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world. ... What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world.

And you get the message: "This shit ain't gonna be easy. And it's probably gonna take a lot longer to fix than I have. I can't save you alone, but you can save yourselves."

Reading comprehension: Not just for nerds anymore.
Posted by Zelbinian on January 21, 2009 at 9:21 PM · Report this
Good insight. That was one of my problems with Obama, his soaring rhetoric. I find the deification of any American politician right, left or center unpalatable. Its nice to hear a guarded admiration for President Obama. He remains our President. I wish him well.
Posted by lark on January 21, 2009 at 9:33 PM · Report this
I can admire political leaders—I admire Obama—but I know they'll always let me down. Pleasing everybody all the time is not a part of the politician's job description.

If Obama pleased you all the time, and hence didn't let you down, wouldn't he then be letting down everyone who doesn't agree with you on everything?

I've always been a little cold to Obama because I feel he's never really acknowledged this—never owned his own fallibility, the fact that he will inevitably let his followers down.

From his election night victory speech:

"There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem."
Posted by It's not all about you on January 21, 2009 at 9:37 PM · Report this
@12 - Except for the Buddhists and Hindus. They get to come back and try again.
Posted by Mahtli69 on January 21, 2009 at 9:45 PM · Report this
Funny the only people I know of that referred to the speech as "underwhelming" are right-wing idiots like you find on Fox. Are you looking for a career change Erica?
Posted by Sad Comment on January 21, 2009 at 10:54 PM · Report this
Couldn't agree with you more Erica. And the resulting backwash is inevitable, too. SLOG is a progressive petri dish. Out in the broader world, many people were vaguely ill at ease at how Obama's "lofty" campaign rhetoric allowed him to avoid questions of governance, and appear to be both a centrist to centrists and a progressive to progressives. We worried that when he (inevitably) doesn't deliver universal healthcare and an LGBT-integrated military in the first 100 days, the disillusionment would be severe.

And it's not a strawman. The fact that the SLOG went so completely bonkers over the Warren inauguration thing- people saying they no longer supported Obama, etc- shows how sensitive people are to Obama meeting (or not meeting) their sky-high expectations.

But speaking as a former Clinton supporter, Obama's actions since the election have been pretty much perfect. *All* his speeches since then, including this one, have carried a reserve and plain-speaking entirely appropriate for where we find ourselves as a nation.
Posted by Big Sven on January 22, 2009 at 8:44 AM · Report this
Erica, you and I are of the same mind. I like Obama very much and I'm happy that he inspires so many people, but I'm most drawn to him when he is realistic and humble. His speech inspired me because it was just that.
Posted by mitten on January 22, 2009 at 9:20 AM · Report this
Erica, I agree 100% with your first paragraph -- the starry-eyed hero worship of Obama makes me uncomfortable. But, I think he was as honest as he could be during the campaign. Anyone who wants to be president has to lie in order to win; I take it as a positive sign that he confined his lies to promising things he knows he probably can't deliver.

I certainly don't remember Clinton ever owning her "own fallibility, the fact that [she] will inevitably let [her] followers down" in any of her speeches. That's just not something politicians can do during a campaign. Again, I take it as a good sign that Obama went there as soon as he was actually the president.

On another note, I want to say 'good for you' to continue to engage on the Slog and keep an even temper in the face of those vicious commenters who are unreasonably enraged by even your most mundane posts.
Posted by rrr on January 22, 2009 at 10:22 AM · Report this
@11 Oscar Wilde said "The youth of America is their oldest tradition" more than a century ago QED. With that quote you prove my point.
Wilde says our oldest tradition is our youth. Not our elders, not our mythology, not our connection to the land; but our young people. We're a young nation.

Most cultures go back thousands of years, and have deep ethnic connections between their people. The United States goes back merely 250 years, and has only documentary connections binding us together, (ie. "rule of law", the Constitution; we have no unified cultural norms).

Example: France, as a modern document-based nation, goes back to 1789. But the people have been living there for millenia and their cultural norms (blood ties) are more binding than any rule of law.

Rule of law is good, great, impressive, and important. But it is a new phase of human history that didn't exist as it does today in the US, Canada, Australia, & New Zealand. It has yet to be fully tested.
I'm in favor, but it requires logic and rationality to operate, not emotional exuberance.
Posted by treacle on January 22, 2009 at 3:20 PM · Report this

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