Whatever the final outcome of this Perpetual Primary season, one of the most fascinating of its many aspects is the opportunity to observe the speed at which Barack Obama is able to learn.
During the first half of last week’s South Carolina debate, Obama was a fighter on the ropes as he took blow after blow from Hillary Clinton and seemed too rattled to do more than make little defensive jabs in her direction.
But midway through the debate he got hold of himself and began to fire back and, at times even to dance away from the blows. It still was not Obama’s best hour, but the impressive part was watching him analyze his and Hillary’s respective games and make changes on the spot.
Further evidence of Barack’s ability to absorb new information quickly then act on it, was demonstrated in his new-found ability to dodge and parry with the Clintons on this week’s campaign trail (the NY Times Patrick Healy sums up that fun-filled task), and finally in Obama’s Saturday night victory speech after he was declared the winner in South Carolina’s democratic primary. In addition to a new version of the now-trademark clarion call to hope and inspiration that Obama does better than perhaps any public figure in a generation, the candidate also threw a bunch of slugs in Hillary’s direction, but each blow was delivered with a light, agile, take-the-high-road spin. (Here’s a link to the text.)
Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly, who is now the poster guy for ardently-enthusiastic-Republican–crossovers- for-Obama, had a good take on the speech in this Saturday night’s post about the Obama victory:
Tonight was, in my judgment, the best. He was able to frame the attacks on him as a reason to vote for him. He was able to frame his foes as the status quo – beyond the Clintons or the Bushes, Democrats or Republicans. He was able to cast his candidacy as a rebuke to the Balkanization of the American public, a response to the abuse of religion for political purposes, a repudiation of the cynicism that makes all political commentary a function of horse-races and spin. It was an appeal to Democrats, Republicans and Independents to say goodbye to all that. It was a burial of Rove and Morris. And it was better than his previous speeches because he kept bringing it back to policy specifics, to the economy and healthcare and, movingly, to this misbegotten war. The diverse coalition he has assembled – including an ornery small-government conservative like me – is a reflection of the future of this country, its potential and its irreplaceable, dynamic cultural and social mix.
Watch it yourselves. It’s a hell of a speech.