[I]t is simply dismaying that a serious presidential candidate should use it as the ideological frame for his set-piece issues.So I go to listen to the speech. Am I offended that Obama reframes his usual material with the Virginia Tech story? He had a speech to give that day, and it would not have worked to omit the subject. Plenty of other people went out of their way to use the massacre to promote their favorite issues -- notably gun control.
Politico columnist Ben Smith has brought attention to a speech that Barack Obama made in Milwaukee just hours after the massacre. It must be heard to be believed. After deploring and expressing grief about the shootings, he continues (my transcription): "I hope that it causes us to reflect a little bit more broadly on the degree to which we do accept violence in various forms. . . . There's also another kind of violence . . . it's not necessarily physical violence."
What kinds does he have in mind? First, "Imus and the verbal violence that was directed at young women [of Rutgers]. . . . For them to be degraded . . . that's a form of violence. It may be quiet. It may not surface to the same level of the tragedy we read about today and we mourn." Good to know that Don Imus's "violence" does not quite rise to the level of Cho's.
Second, outsourcing. Yes, outsourcing: "the violence of men and women who . . . suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job has moved to another country."
Obama then cites bad schools and bad neighborhoods as forms of violence, before finishing with, for good measure, Darfur -- accusing America of conducting "foreign policy as if the children in Darfur are somehow less than the children here, and so we tolerate violence there." Is Obama, who proudly opposed overthrowing the premier mass murderer of our time, Saddam Hussein, suggesting an invasion of Sudan?
Who knows. This whole exercise in defining violence down to include shock-jock taunts and outsourcing would normally be mere intellectual slovenliness. Doing so in the shadow of the murder of 32 innocents still unburied is tasteless, bordering on the sacrilegious.
What really struck me about that audio clip though was what a gasbag Obama is. I hear a tired-sounding man, who rambles on and on. I know he's speaking before a group. I hear them respond now and then, when he mentions that Iraq is a war that should never have been waged and when he says teachers deserve higher pay. But if I didn't know who he was and that there was a crowd there, I would picture an old man slumped in an armchair, expatiating for the benefit of anyone unlucky enough to be within earshot. It's formless stream of consciousness. Oh, there is that theme of hope. The stream swirls back there at predictable intervals.
So the original question was whether we should be offended that he mixed the murderous violence of the day with other things, like the "verbal violence" of the dreaded Don Imus. But a better question, I think, is why does Barack Obama have a reputation as a good speaker? From this clip, I'd say he's a gasbag.
Here's a line:
"This campaign cannot be about me. This campaign is a vehicle for you. It's a vehicle for your hopes. It's a vehicle for your dreams."Spare me.
Well, a candidate can get weary. It was a very stressful day. Maybe that was Obama at his worst. But really, such drivel. Just listing a lot of issues and saying hope, hope, hope should not inspire real hope. I can't believe people are hearing this and thinking: brilliant rhetoric. "Intellectual slovenliness" is a much more apt phrase.