The rhetorical magic of the speech—what made it extraordinary—was that it was, at once, both unequivocal and healing. There were no weasel words, no Bushian platitudes or Clintonian verb-parsing. Obama was unequivocal in his candor about black anger and white resentment—sentiments that few mainstream politicians acknowledge (although demagogues of both races have consistently exploited them). And he was unequivocal in his refusal to disown Wright. Cynics and political opponents quickly noted that Obama used a forest of verbiage to camouflage a correction—the fact that he was aware of Wright’s views, that he had heard such sermons from the pulpit, after first denying that he had. And that may have been politics as usual. But the speech wasn’t.
It was a grand demonstration of the largely unfulfilled promise of Obama’s candidacy: the possibility that, given his eloquence and intelligence, he will be able to create a new sense of national unity—not by smoothing over problems but by confronting them candidly and with civility.
Somewhere along the way Klein reduced himself from an astute observer of the political scene into the symptom of a malady. Wehner’s exchange with Klein marks the reduction with an exclamation point.
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