ObamaMedia: Was the J-J Dinner Speech “transformational”?

Andrew Sullivan’s been showing love for Obama for awhile; he brings it to a hilt in his Atlantic Monthly cover story Good Bye to All That. He calls Obama’s candidacy “potentially transformational.”

Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

In the same magazine, Marc Ambinder offers some real-politic on the race. He concludes:

In the end, though, Hillary Clinton may be the candidate who best understood the Democratic electorate—she certainly understood and accepted the demands placed upon anyone serious about winning. A primary that Obama hoped would be a referendum on how politics is practiced may be decided not over questions of protocol and process, but instead over something more basic. After eight long years in the wilderness, Clinton senses that what Democrats want most is victory.

The USA Today’s Jill Lawrence makes the case that the campaign would be in trouble if Iowa college students don’t rouse themselves for the early caucus date of January 3.

Sullivan’s not the only one praising Obama’s Saturday night Iowa speech. Joshua Levy techPresident points to summaries saying that Obama “rocked” the speech; The Economist wonders if Obama’s mediocre performance to date was part of some ingenious stratagem.

Mr Obama was physically expending himself in Iowa; sweating visibly, quivering with what almost resembled anger, raising his voice to the point of nearly breaking; gesturing again and again with those long hands. By all accounts, campaigning nationally is exhausting. Maybe Mr Obama knew, if not even consciously, that he could not do this every day, several times a day, across the country back and forth. It is only conjecture, but perhaps he knew that if he had to come out throwing everything he had, he had to choose his moment; shortly before the caucus, at a widely-watched event where his rivals would also be, and would pale in comparison.

Here’s the speech, judge for yourself. For my money, it doesn’t really start until about the 4:30 mark.


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