Barack Obama is a truly marvelous speaker. His speech tonight was quite impressive, so far as rhetorical skill and speech cadence go. He is obviously sincere and thus comes across as a decent man who cares for his country. To my mind demonizing him serves no real purpose in the context of a needed civil debate. Rick Warren was right when he appealed for such a civil debate in his Saddleback Forum two weeks ago, which is still the best opportunity we have had to compare the two candidates seriously. Sadly, it may be the last given how this campaign will go. There is a odd irony in this. An evangelical pastor may have done more to allow us to get to know these two men than any media figure or interviewer in America. I was so proud of Rick Warren that I cannot easily find the words to say, "Good job my brother."

I listened to Senator Obama’s acceptance speech this evening with real interest. I have followed Barack Obama closely for more than four years now, often finding some good things to say about him. I have read his two books from cover to cover, listened to many of his speeches for over four years now and read his statements about policy carefully, when I can actually find statements on policy he has actually written. What I heard tonight was little more than a typical Democratic Party campaign speech. People are hurting and we, that is the federal government, are here to help you. (I still agree with Ronald Reagan’s line that the worst twelve words you may ever hear are these: “We are from the government and we are here to help you.”

For the so-called agent of change there was very little “real change” in the content of what I heard tonight. Even Bill Clinton offered several truly “new” ideas in 1992 when he ran his first national campaign. He knew he had to become a more centrist Democrat to win and ran in that direction. But Barack Obama offered little such substance in his stirring and crowd pleasing address.

One of Obama’s closing paragraphs in his speech tonight said:

"I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once more the last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future."

That is quite an agenda! Is there any wonder that some people hear the tones of “messianic promise” in such words? I do not know a living human being who could possibly do what Obama promised to do that one single paragraph. Frankly, such speeches generally offer little substance. This one was no disappointment in that sense.

I like the man personally. I like the way he reaches people in powerful ways. But I am still waiting to hear him really tell me how he will govern, make tough decisions and offer solutions to some of the pressing problems our nation faces politically. His record is very thin, his answers often extremely vague and his programs seem to be those of the failed past. “A rose by any other name is still a rose.”

Please tell me how government can solve the problems of marriage, family and personal responsibility. If I hear one more appeal to the mortgage crisis that tells me government should rescue people who should have never bought their over-priced homes I think I will scream. And there was even the suggestion tonight that personal credit card debt was a government issue. Give me a break people.

I fear that the best we can hope for in the coming two months is an honest dialog between these two men. Mc
McCain has offered to do townhall meetings with Obama for months. Obama refuses even though in his book he says this is the best forum he knows for modern dialog about real political issues. I sure wish he would do a series of townhall meetings. It would be good for us. My guess is his campaign staff will never allow it to happen because these candidates are so tightly scripted by their handlers. In this case Obama has more to lose than to gain since every one knows how well McCain does in these settings, speaking straight from his gut as he does. This is what stood out in the Saddleback Forum so clearly. Like him or not he gives straight, simple, clear answers.   

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  1. Ross August 29, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I’m glad you got this quote from his speech.
    “And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once more the last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”
    When I heard it, I was astounded (& wished I had TiVo). A tall order indeed.
    I found his statements about compromise regarding abortion, gun-control and same-sex marriage refreshing, but I am skeptical that either party is really willing to bend. When the Democratic Party Platform states, in reference to abortion rights, “…and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” and the Replublican party is so tightly tied to the NRA and the Religious Right, I can’t see our representatives giving an inch in these areas to actually move towards compromise. Time will tell. I too find Obama a likeable person and after reading Audacity of Hope last year, I told my wife “He will be our country’s first black President.” What he says sounds great, but as you point out, offers little substance when considering how he plans to achieve these lofty goals.

  2. George C August 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    What exactly is it that about Obama that is so “obviously sincere”?
    Someone who is that good at public speaking and seems to be very intelligent and yet is so purposely vague seems obviously insincere to me.
    The fact that he makes the outlandish claims that he does pretty much leaves me to conclude that he is either delusional, lying, or the messiah.
    Everything that Obama says in public is very calculated (as with almost all politicians) and while there may be the occasional verbal slip, there is not much room for me to believe that he is honest and/or sincere or that he is running his whole campaign off of accidental vagueness. The facts would hurt his chances of winning, so he avoids them.
    This may be par for the course in American politics, but we should not be ok with it and certainly not mistaking it for sincerity.

  3. Emil September 1, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Our men’s group at church is reading Isaiah. There is a lot of judgment in the early chapters (1-39). As I read, I think of how Isaiah’s words apply to me and to the USA. After the Democratic Convention and Obama’s speech, I began to wonder whether Obama is what we deserve at this time. We have become a nation of short-attention spans, interested in celebrities more than substance, absolutely unable to deal with many issues (How many presidents have vowed to reduce our dependence on imported oil? Is education in public schools getting better?), television programs are getting worse as are the advertisements on programs which parents might watch with their children (such as football games).
    I am not a person to announce what God’s intention is; He is God and I am not. Yet, so many of Isaiah’s description of Israel in his time can be applied to our culture, that maybe we will get a president that our society merits at this time.

  4. Adam S September 2, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I find the charges about Obama’s lack of specifics strange. If you look at the policy statements that are easily available on line, there are much more specifics than are on McCain’s policy statements. All politicians promise the world. So why should we hold Obama to more than what we held Bush to. I just seems disingenuous to make charges against the “other guy” that you don’t want applied to “your guy.”

  5. John H. Armstrong September 2, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Where do you get “my guy” in this post? No, I am not enamored with Obama’s economic plans, as I stated, but then his views do represent his party which has always been for bigger government answers to human problems, at least since the 1930s. The sad fact is that most Republicans have followed suit, including our current president.
    The argument that Bush cut the taxes on the wealthy is great PR but not really relevant. He cut taxes, period. This stimulates economic growth and we are still seeing modest growth, something almost no media person talks about. The housing market is bad and the price of fuel is a huge issue but we are NOT in a recession. If Bush had not allowed a huge increase in over spending it would have worked even better than it did and it worked modestly well even with all the war spending. (I was not for the war by the way!)
    So, I am not being particularly partisan in my comments about Obama’s excellently delivered speecg. Most commentators agreed with my assessment of the content of the speech. It was great rhetorically and short on explanation. He is an inspiring person and may lift our collective spirits but then he had to govern. And you know as well I do that “party platforms” have meant nothing for well over fifty years.
    I am so tired of this whole campaign and bet that most people agree. In terms of the church it always saps our interest and strength for months and that can never be good. If I didn’t think there were really important issues, upon which we do disagree, I wouldn’t even bother blogging this political stuff.
    Oh yes, I do “like” politics as a kind of side hobby. I studied the subject in college and just enjoy it. But modern campaigns are brutal. Check out today’s NY Times front page. Three, count them, three articles on Sarah Palin’s family life. Is this what it has come to finally? If she were a Democrat do you believe this would be the stuff of front page news. To Obama’s credit he said, “NO way we should be discussing this stuff.” Amen!

  6. Adam S September 3, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Ok, then it it not “your guy”. But you should be making the same charges against McCain for lack of policy specifics. I agree that you have tried to be fairly non-partisian, but you keep complaining about the non-specifics from Obama, but I haven’t heard you mention McCain’s non-specifics as all. Maybe I have missed it.

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