Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Most Important Speech?

Following- and even preceding- Barack Obama's Wright/race speech on March 18, 2008, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and other pundits referred to the address as the most important of his career.

Wrong, twice. There was Mr. Obama's rousing "One America" keynote speech at the 2004Democratic National Convention, which brought rave reviews and launched his national political career. You remember it:

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America; and There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America; and The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

Then there was the speech State Senator Obama gave before an anti-war rally in Chicago, Illinois on October 9, 2002, in which he asserted:

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

Although the speech itself isn't often quoted, Obama's public opposition, as reflected in this address, to impending war has served as the rationale for his campaign and is asserted again and again by the Senator and his surrogates. It has proven especially valuable as a defense- although arguably inadequate- to the charge that he is not qualified to be Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Invariably, the Obama forces argue that Clinton flubbed her most important vote by authorizing President Bush to use military force in Iraq. Barack Obama's opposition to the war has not been consistent, but that is an argument for another day.

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