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The Speech Redux

I don't usually visit the same topic two days in a row, but Sen. Barack Obama's speech Tuesday on race, race relations and the words of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., seems like such a signal moment in this year's presidential election that it deserves the attention.

Dan Balz, the Post's senior political reporter, wrote this morning that "The question is which will last longer -- Obama's eloquent words about racial divisions and reconciliation or questions about his relationship with a man whose words have shocked the country." Balz warned that "The danger is that what might last are the images of his Chicago pastor -- edited and reedited into television ads, YouTube videos and an endless stream of e-mails delivered quietly into the computers of millions of Americans. That would be good neither for Obama nor for the goals he talked about on Tuesday."

At least four YouTube videos are linked in various comments at this hour, none of them complimentary.

The comments on Balz's analysis range from praise to condemnation of Obama, suggest that the Democrats superdelegates now have a responsibility to make sure the nomination goes to Sen. Hillary Clinton, decry hate speech, and ask why Obama stayed so long in Wright's church or didn't call him out. Many express concern, either directly or directly, about race relations in this country. Some reiterate the complaint that the media gave Obama a free ride for far too long. As Balz writes, it doesn't look like this one is going to disappear as many other campaign "issues" have. Our readers agree, some with anger, some with glee, some with sadness.

We'll start with zoot1, a self-identified supporter of Obama, who wrote, "...I'd never expect him to stand up on Sunday morning and call out his minister. I can understand why he remains affiliated with a church and a preacher with such a strong tradition of social service... But I was hoping that at least once he remonstrated with a man with whom he was personally close. The Philadelphia speech encapsulated brilliantly what he might have said privately at least once over the last 20 years. It comes a little late in the day for many."

OurFuture said, "This was the best speech I've heard in the decades that I've heard them. The challenge in this moment is to go beyond our usual cynicism about motives. I think Barack Obama is the real deal...I think that this speech will not only outlive the questions, but that future generations will think of us as lucky to have been here to hear it."

But farfalle44 wrote, "Given his latest screw-ups, the question should be asked, does Obama even KNOW how to tell the truth? Does he have something against legitimate questions being asked of him, and just flat out refusing to answer them? I've never seen a candidate get away with what he has been getting away with by way of non-responsive answers and empty rhetoric my whole life!"

peter138 said, "...Obama is a man who has the guts to verbalize his thoughts and the thoughts of many Americans in such an honest and powerful way that I feel hope in our time. A time full of hate!"

But Spring_Rain wrote, "...your dear Barack Obama NEVER stoops to the "politics of hate" does he? He hasn't tried to twist Hillary Clinton's words to make her sound like a racist has he? Gimme a break. Obama is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing... Get that demogogue OUT of my sight, please!"

miraclestudies said that Obama "may not win the presidency but that would only be because the majority of the American voting public isn't yet able to rise up to his level of thoughtfulness and integrity. Many... seem to be far more comfortable with the professional political hacks who play to the lowest possible common denominator..."

davmiller1 asked, "Ever wonder why the Democrats have super delegates?
Now we know why. They are there to correct a situation when a fraud like Obama, due to lack of scrutiny by media and voters nears the nomination and then is found to be a hoax. Do your job Super need to boot this un-electable candidate."

gandalfthegrey observed that "...The haters are out in full force... I think that America has grown up enough to put most of the non-controversy behind and move on to the serious business that faces the country trying to recover from 8 years of unremarkable leadership and astonishing ineptitude..."

Michael531 wrote, "...As Obama said in his speech, black and white people have a lot more in common. We need to shift the debate on the challenges that face our country. .."

johnnormansp said, "...That Obama frequented the curch of such an influential black pastor is due to that Obama is not a conventional candidate. Now Americans have to make a choice -- more conventional candidates -- McCain or Clinton -- or Obama. My own vote is for Obama, who summed up his stand on these complicated issues in a way that earns him, if not his preacher, respect."

panchenlama wrote that "it only makes matters worse that people and media were so unwilling to critically assess his candidacy all along. if that had happened then the current crisis might have been, to some degree, more effectively mitigated. but now..."

lochness119 wondered why Obama "...never stood up and give his personal account as a BI-RACIAL individual to bridge the racial divide - it would have been a perfect and powerful experience. Instead he let Wright's toxin brew for 20 years!... I am very disappointed. He is weak, all words and no action."

cremon said, "...I cannot support this guy for commander in chief. I don't have anything against him as a person, but I am unable to accept the idea of this guy being the head of our executive branch..."

mvers asked, "...Has anyone ever heard Barack Obama say or state anything that would indicate he supports or believes any of the rhetoric of hate spoken by Rev. Jerimiah Wright or any other group or individuals of the same persuasion? No, I don't think so. How many conservative right wing supporters denounced Jerry Falweel, Pat Robertson, or John Hagee for there comments that we suffered 911 because of acceptance of abortion, or homosexuality, or because of this Country's opposition to prayer in public places or symbols of religion? No one!..."

dyinglikeflies suggested that, "...If Obama couldn't handle Wright, he can't handle North Korea, Iran, or the demons he and we all have in our souls. He had a duty to speak up-if he didn't act like a man then, he won't as President... this is about Obama, not about race."

VApolitics said, "...Oddly, I think Obama's message may come across better in South where people white and black are still likely to have a family tie to someone who has at one time expressed racial views. In many ways, because the South has had to confront these issues, the South is more mature on this subject than the rest of the country."

By Doug Feaver  |  March 20, 2008; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Obama  
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