I'm picturing the young Barack Obama, watching this on C-SPAN and a light bulb goes on over his head:
Here's the text of that last part:
It seems to me if you can speak, you're at a liability in the Democratic Party anymore. It seems to me you've all become heartless technocrats. It seems to me that you forget that what happens is we've never as a party, we have never as a party moved this nation by 14-point position papers and 9-point programs.Maybe this was the moment when Barack Obama first envisioned his path to the presidency, first saw how he might be the one who could, like Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King, use the power of speech to change attitudes.
It seems that when we got involved in the civil rights movement, Frank, nobody asked Martin Luther King what his legislative agenda was. He marched to change attitudes. When the women's movement started, it had not moved with a constitutional amendment. They marched to change attitudes.
And this party better understand full well that it's about time that we change our attitude and we begin to change the attitudes of Americans about what their responsibilities are to the poor, about what their responsibilities are to other people, and about what our responsibility in the world is, and that requires changing attitudes.
But Frank, I promise you'll see my 15-point plans and 19-point position papers and you'll be able to make a judgment when Gary Hart and I stand there — who knows more about foreign policy, Gary or me? — and when you see that Dick Gephardt and I stand there, you'll be able to make a judges about whether Dick Gephardt or I know more about economic policy.
But ultimately, Frank, this country needs a leader, and leaders change attitudes about people, and it's the ironic twist that in the wake of Ronald Reagan that the only one thing he knew how to do was the one thing that is now being... the currency of which is in fact now being devalued so much.
That C-SPAN clip was recorded on April 3, 1987, and in September of 1987, there was some conspicuous apologizing for the factual misstatements he made. The chronology works: Obama entered law school one year later, in the fall of 1988.
Here was Biden, prescribing what the party needed but crumpling when challenged about his law school — the solid but not prestigious Syracuse University College of Law. Obama then went to Harvard, a law school no one can dare disrespect, where he would pick up the credentials that would hush the Franks of this world.
In the fall of 1988, Obama saw the Democratic Party lose with a man who looked for all the world like the heartless technocrat Biden had warned us about:
Did Biden inspire Obama back in in 1987-88? Maybe Biden knew he did, and he was thinking about that — thinking about himself — when he enthused awkwardly about "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Now, Obama enfolds him, and everything comes full circle. The planets align. What was once so wrong is now all right.
ADDED: A commenter doubts that Obama would have seen this video back in 1987. Did people sit around watching C-SPAN back then? I remember the phenomenon of the "C-SPAN junkie" from the 80s. Don't you think Obama is the kind of person who'd have watched "The Road to the White House," that endless feed of presidential campaign events, which was already on in those days? Here's a NYT article by Andrew Rosenthal from October 1987:
C-SPAN's Spotlight Brings Quiet Corners of Campaigning Into ViewIn 1987, C-SPAN was teaching some crucial lessons about the future of political campaigning, lessons taught at Joe Biden's expense, and I'll bet Obama was watching, learning, and — for Joe Biden — empathizing.
Bruce Babbitt subscribed to it to help him learn how to look better on television. Tom Rath, adviser to Senator Bob Dole in New Hampshire, uses it to observe campaign rivals with a degree of intimacy unheard of in previous elections. And it played an important role in the disintegration of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s campaign.
The Washington-based Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network, once known primarily as ''the network that dares to be boring,'' has found new prominence and respect in the 1988 Presidential election season.
C-SPAN still is not considered so influential on the course of the campaign as newspapers and the major networks. But some political operatives believe its blanket coverage has started to change the rules of campaigning, bringing television into areas once shielded from general view and exposing candidates to minute analysis by their opponents and the press....
The power of C-SPAN was dramatically illustrated last month toward the end of Mr. Biden's campaign. Nan Gibson, C-SPAN's press coordinator, says that after publication of newspaper articles about a speech in which the Senator had lifted the family history of a British politician, she received scores of calls from reporters interested in the network's tape of Mr. Biden's remarks.
The major networks' news programs televised the C-SPAN tape in their coverage of the story, and another C-SPAN tape contributed to a subsequent Newsweek article that told of how Mr. Biden, at a New Hampshire campaign event, had misstated his academic record.
''Reporters are using us as a video archive,'' Ms. Gibson said. ''They can't be everywhere at once, so they can watch from here.''...
The network ... has greatly expanded its campaign reporting, mostly through a weekly program, ''Road to the White House,'' on which C-SPAN's political editor, Carl M. Rutan, is host....
''C-SPAN brings everything that the candidates are doing into the people's living rooms,'' said Phil Roeder, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party. ''It's the high-tech version of retail politics,'' the style of one-on-one personalized campaigning deemed mandatory for success in Iowa and New Hampshire.....
At small campaign events, C-SPAN crews attach a wireless microphone to the candidate's clothing and use a shotgun microphone to reach everyone else. The object, Mr. Rutan said, is to record every word the candidate says and every gesture he makes as he shakes hands, kisses babies and drinks coffee....
But the presence of C-SPAN cameras, political operatives said, also forces candidates to be more careful about such things as efforts to tailor their remarks for different parts of the country. Mr. Rutan, C-SPAN's political editor, said that after Mr. Biden's experience, campaign aides were more wary.
''In the past, candidates have been able to go where they want and maybe stretch the truth just a little bit,'' he said. ''Suddenly what they say in a small Iowa town is on the record, just as if they had said it at the National Press Club in Washington.''