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Friday, June 24, 2005

TNR: Barack Star

Obama's commencement speech: the best case for liberal politics in recent memory.
David Kusnet - Only at TNR Online | Post date 06.20.05

What happens when a prominent political figure who's usually a media star gives a great speech that doesn't get much news coverage? If the pol and the staff are smart, they'll keep using the frame and the phrasings until the news media, political insiders, and, eventually, a national audience start paying attention--and the speech that once was ignored becomes the politician's trademark. That, at any rate, is what happened to Ronald Reagan's case for conservatism, Mario Cuomo's tribute to "the family of America," and John Edwards's populist stump speech.

Much the same fate may await the commencement address Barack Obama delivered at Knox College on June 4. The speech got little coverage outside local papers and has been largely ignored by columnists and talking heads. Perhaps that's because few national journalists or even Chicago-based reporters are inclined to visit Galesburg, Illinois, on a Saturday; or maybe because Obama's speech didn't make news in the conventional sense--it contained no attacks on his adversaries, no announcements of new policy proposals, no slurs on entire segments of society.

All Obama did was make the best case for liberal politics in recent memory, with a panoramic view of American history that made public investment in job training and new technologies sound like the logical descendents of the Civil Rights movement, the New Deal, the Progressive Era, the abolitionists, and the American Revolution...