Friday, September 19, 2008

How's Barack doing?

You've seen the headline stuff about Barack Obama's brilliant appearance at University of Miami's BankUnited Center before 8,000 very happy people. This report will assume you're up on the main points, and I'll cover some side elements.

This was the fifth time I've seen him speak in person, and never has he spoken with such power. Was it only that the sound system was totally cranked up? I don't think so. He's ahead or rising in the polls, the economic issues have turned fully negative on the Republicans and it's entirely their own doing, and Obama is in his full stride with six weeks-plus to go.

He has a way of tugging on the heartstrings that I don't see analyzed much. In the past week I finally finished reading "Dreams from my Father," his memoir that we may think of as a recent book, but which in fact was published in 1995, "before his political career began," as Wikipedia puts it.

The book is full of tender and penetrating thoughts about his parents and everything he was discovering in his background (subtitle is "A Story of Race and Inheritance"), and as I read, my eyes often welled up with emotion and admiration of his power to describe.

His standard speech uses this repeatedly. His late mother appears and becomes a reason for his race for the presidency, through the evocative trauma of her fight against cancer and the health insurance maze. His still-living grandmother Dunham is in there, too, with her determined but slow rise in the business world and encounter with the glass ceiling. In the book, his African female relatives are the lead characters in his sojourn in Kenya, and he brims over with empathy for their struggles. I don't see how women, especially, can avoid succumbing to him. "This is personal, for me," he said about health care issues and his mother's final illness.

So in his speech Friday afternoon, Obama brought out memories of his mother and grandmother with the refrain, "That's why I'm running for president." And not to forget his wife, Michelle, whom he likened to the Chaka Khan song "I'm Every Woman." John McCain is a weak opponent in this area, as Obama counted McCain's deficiencies in equal pay, abortion, discrimination and health care.

McCain. in a speech earlier Friday, somehow tried to blame Obama for the economic mess. "I think it's clear," Obama retorted, "that Sen. McCain is a little panicked right now."

Further: on the silliness of Republican charges, "That's what you do when you're out of ideas."

It was interesting to hear him say that he supports the crisis intervention the Bush administration now is undertaking -- he specifically named Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke, not Bush -- and he said he backs bipartisan work in Congress to find solutions.

Finally, he cited "my friend Hillary Clinton" and her 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.

One last note: the honor of introducing him was given to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), who declared that Obama will be carried to the presidency "by the women of this country." A few weeks ago she was not in the Obama camp but rather fighting every way possible to get Sen. Clinton the nomination. In Denver she also was honored by giving one of the seconding speeches for Obama, so I've got to say she has come around to the good side of the ledger throughout. Reward: in all the TV images of this speech she's sitting right there behind him. Further payment by her: her endorsement of all three Democratic candidates for congress from South Florida, Annette Taddeo (FL-18), Joe Garcia (FL-25) and Raul Martinez (FL-21), who were mentioned by name in Obama's speech. (Correcting that they were NOT on stage.)


swampthing said...

Debbie Wass went from red to blue when all other options were exhausted. She has a big a.. voice.
Has ken meek seen the blue light at the end of his tunnel?

Larry Thorson said...

Yes, Kendrick Meek also has given money to Annette Taddeo, sealing his acceptance of her as a credible candidate.

Swampthing is skeptical of Debbie's voice (or something), but I prefer to accept her conversion and Meek's conversion as politically genuine, while remembering that they backed Clinton in the first place. Obama won. If they didn't get on the bandwagon, what future would they have as Democrats?