Ok, I needed a break from all the craziness on Wall Street, so I am venturing into the always entertaining world of politics.
Barack Obama has a speech problem.
It goes beyond the recent controversy over Obama's slow disavowal of the Rev. Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright, his spiritual mentor and the man who presided over his marital ceremony.
It goes beyond the fact that, as Obama purports to want to heal the partisan divide in Washington, DC, he now stands perilously on a Grand Canyon of a default line over race.
And it goes beyond Obama's recent speech about slavery, a truly courageous speech, though undermined by statements that he can no more "disown" Rev. Wright as he can no more disown his "white grandmother," the woman who largely helped raise Obama after his father left him and his mother, a grandmother who he says was afraid of black men passing her on the street and who he says "on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
It doesn't stop there.
I thought you might like to hear about a growing controversy over a speech Obama gave on March 4, 2007 in Selma, Ala. to commemorate the courageous Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights for African Americans, which ended with marchers being assaulted with tear gas and Billy clubs by state troopers. Conservative writer Paul Hollrah flagged it first in a similar take as the one I offer below, my uncle Jimmy alerted it to me, excerpts are below.
You can also watch the speech on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r-XG_VJZDw
It's a speech that cemented Obama's standing as a formidable contender for the White House, and it's a speech that shows how uncannily brilliant he is at oratory, as it may make you feel instantly transported.
But it's a speech filled with manufactured, self-promoting phantasms, and it may make you grind your teeth--read through to the bottom of this blog to find out why.
Obama has said in a presidential debate recently: "Words are important, words matter, and the implication that they don't diminishes how important it is to speak to the American people directly about making America as good as its promise," later characterizing Sen. Hillary Clinton's charges that he plagiarized a speech given by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick as a sign that it's the "silly season" in politics.
It certainly is:
"...And something happened back here in Selma, Alabama. Something happened in Birmingham that sent out what Bobby Kennedy called, ‘ripples of hope all around the world.' Something happened when a bunch of women decided we're going to walk instead of ride the bus after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry, looking after somebody else's children."
"When (black) men who had PhD's were working as Pullman porters decided 'that's enough' and we're going to stand up despite the risks for our dignity... that sent a shout across oceans so that my grandfather began to imagine something different for his son...."
"And his son, who grew up herding goats in a small village in Africa could suddenly set his sights a little higher and suddenly believe that maybe a black man in this world had a chance..... "
"And what happened in Selma, Ala. and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation and it worried folks in the White House who said, you know we're battling communism, how are we gonna win the battle for hearts and minds all across the world that, right here in our own country John, we're not observing the ideals that are set forth in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites...
"So the Kennedys decided, we're gonna do an airlift. We're gonna go out to Africa and we're gonna start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so that they can learn what a wonderful country America is...."
"And this young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. And he met this woman whose great great-great-great- grandfather had owned slaves. But she had a different idea, there's some good craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided we know that, in the world as it has been, it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child...."
"But something stirred across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks were willing to march across a bridge...."
"So they got together, Barack Obama, Jr. was born....
"So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama, I'm here because somebody marched across a bridge. I'm here because y'all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of that."
All right, here we go.
Obama begins and then finishes the speech by saying that, because a group of African Americans had the courage to protest in Birmingham and to march across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, that the bravery of those here in the United States who stood up to the evil of bigotry and racism "sent a shout across oceans" that inspired his grandfather to "imagine something different for his son," Obama's father.
Obama goes on to say that what happened in Selma, Ala. and Birmingham "worried folks in the White House" and "so the Kennedys decided, we're gonna do an airlift" to bring young Africans here and give them scholarships to study.
The problem is, Barrack Obama, Jr., was born on August 4, 1961. The first of three marches across that bridge in Selma didn't occur until March 7, 1965, three and half years after he was born and six years after his parents met. The anti-segregation marches took place in Birmingham in 1963.
So Obama is essentially saying the Selma and Birmingham civil rights protests are the reasons why he was brought into existence when he was already in existence. Yes, it's understood that the civil rights movement was well underway in the late '50s--but he didn't say that, he cited these specific instances, which is far different and at minimum manipulative.
Also, Obama's father did in fact come here on one of those scholarships in 1959, but it was when President Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House--then Senator Kennedy had yet to announce his presidential candidacy, though he did support the scholarship program.
"People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election," Otto von Bismarck once said.
Footnote: Sen. Hillary Clinton has had her own controversies in this regard, for example, claiming she was essentially a principal player in the peace talks in Northern Ireland and that she was named after famous mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, even though Clinton was born six years before Sir Hillary was the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. The assertion was made in her husband's autobiography; later, Clinton said what really happened was her mother had read an article about Sir Hillary when she was pregnant with her daughter in 1947--though that's viewed as doubtful as well.